The White Lotus Inspired Sicily Travel Guide — The White Lotus Filming Locations

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The White LotusMike White’s razor-sharp satire, is back on HBO for its second season, leaving behind the Hawaiian paradise veneer for the sweet life shine of Sicily. A new generation of characters—plus returning favorite wreck Tanya (masterfully played by Jennifer Coolidge)—have descended on the titular hotel’s Italian address for a week of Aperol Spritz fueled decadence and debauchery.

As in season 1, a Four Seasons property replaces the Sicilian White Lotus hotel and while the hum of simmering tension and fatal death which constantly hovers over this privileged group is hardly enviable, the same cannot be said of those picturesque seaside surroundings which they temporarily inhabit.

Dysfunctional OG couple Tanya and Greg (Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries) have their sweet life moment.

Fabio Lovino / HBO

There are more than perfectly Instagrammable moments, of course. Sicily is an island, the largest in the Mediterranean, with an incredibly rich and turbulent history. The first signs of human activity here date back to 12,000 BC. in what is now a dynamic and culturally diverse destination. And then there is its piece de resistance: Etna, the largest volcano in Italy, which dominates the northeast, as magnanimous as it is volatile.

A lot of The White Lotus takes place in the shadow of Mount Etna in the charming hilltop town of Taormina, though our characters frequently venture off campus on cultural excursions, whether exploring ancient villages or touring The Godfatherit is filming locations. In the spirit of the show’s second season, a T&Cs travel guide for planning your own idyllic – and hopefully drama-free – stay in Taormina and beyond.

Where to stay

San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel

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Four Seasons Hotels

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The Palazzo San Domenico can be a new Four Seasons hotel, but it is one of the oldest properties in Taormina. It was originally built in the 14th century as the private residence of a Baron Damiano Rosso d’Altavilla, who upon his death handed it over to the Dominican religious order to make it a monastery. By the late 1800s it had a new owner, Prince Cerami, who transformed it into a grand hotel that would attract a glittering list of celebrities, royals and literati over the next century, from King Edward VII and the Rothschilds to Oscar Wilde. and DH Lawrence, to project stars like Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1960, it even made an appearance as the setting for a party in Michelangelo Antonioni The Adventurewith Monica Vitti (The White Lotus has so far been ripe with references to the legendary Italian actress – more below).

Perched on a cliff with Mount Etna in the garden and the Ionian Sea in front, the 111-key Four Seasons is modern luxury with touches of period charm. I want the real white lotus live? Experience one of the resort’s five spectacular Special Suites, which feature a private plunge pool and panoramic views. Tanya’s greige hideaway, in case you were wondering, is the best in the house: the 1,500 square foot Royal Suite.

Villa Sant’Andrea, a Belmond Hotel

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Belmond

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Prefer to be closer to the water? Nestled in secluded Mazzaro Bay, the 71-room Villa Sant’Andrea, a Belmond, looks more like an aristocratic residence than a hotel. And it’s been attracting the guy since the ’50s. Lush landscaping, a private beach, and lavishly stacked rooms (most of which face the sea and have terraces) add to its rarefied patina. The center of Taormina is only 3 minutes away by cable car or, better yet, spend a few extra nights at Belmond’s other establishment, the equally aristocratic Grand Hotel Timeo.

Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte hotel

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Rocco Forte Hotels

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Spending time in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is a must. It has a distinctly all-everywhere-all-at-once quality, with its mix of bustling open markets, congested narrow streets, grand palaces, ruined buildings bombed in World War II and architectural landmarks left by nearly every conqueror, from 12th-century Arab-Norman churches to piazzas baroque. That is to say the Villa Igiea will be a godsend after a whirlwind soaking wet afternoon. Rocco Forte Hotels spent two years restoring the former Art Nouveau palace (it was built in 1900 for the Florio family) to its Belle Epoque glory. And even though it’s only 10 minutes from the city center, it will feel worlds apart thanks to its peaceful seaside location and fabulous gardens.

What to see

Valley of the Temples

ancient greek temple of concordia

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Sicily is home to an incredible collection of ancient Greek art and architecture second only to the Acropolis itself – and many are clustered at this 3,000-acre archaeological site in Agrigento, home to Seven Doric-style temples of the time, including the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Concordia.

Teatro Antico di Taormina

the greek theater

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Built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC for music and theatre, then expanded by the Romans to accommodate the sport of gladiators, the Greek Theater is as notable for its archaeological significance as it is for those magnificent views. Bonus points if you are able to tell a story from Greek mythology to your fellow travelers.

Schloss degli Schiavi

The 18th century estate where Michael Corleone takes refuge The Godfather appeared in an episode of The White Lotus: Di Grasso’s patriarch, Bert, hosts a tour of the iconic film’s filming locations, an outing that ends with lunch and a heated debate about toxic masculinity in the backyard. In real life, the Castello degli Schiavi is a private home, although its owner personally leads private tours.

Note

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Harper (Aubrey Plaza) has her own Monica Vitti moment outside Noto Cathedral, in Mike White’s tribute to The Adventure.

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While Di Grasso’s men go on Godfather adventure, Daphne and Harper embark on a day-turned-night trip to Noto. One of a group of late Baroque towns that were rebuilt in the 1700s after an earthquake virtually destroyed the entire region, Noto is a period gem of ornate palaces and soaring cathedrals.

Norman palace

capella palatina in palermo italy

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The oldest royal residence in Europe dates back to the 11th century, when the Normans conquered Sicily and built this palace. In 1132 Roger II of Sicily commissioned the Palatine Chapel (pictured above) to be added to the complex. Various monarchs who came to rule Sicily for the next 700 years continued to use Norman Palace as their seat of power. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

Where to eat

Otto Geleng

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The 16 seater Michelin starred restaurant, in a bougainvillea-lined corner of the Grand Hotel Timeo (Belmond’s other property in Taormina), is one of Sicily’s most unique dining experiences. In the hands of chef Roberto Toro, the tasting menu is an innovative celebration of the freshest ingredients on the island: prawns with caviar, amberjack with saffron, mascarpone with persimmon, kohlrabi with burrata.

Ceramic Principle

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The White Lotus‘ Adam DiMarco as nice boy Albie.

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Dinners at White Lotus can be tricky affairs on a regular basis, but yours doesn’t have to be at the Four Seasons restaurant that replaces the fictional version. The elegant, Michelin-starred Principe Cerami is run by native Silician chef Massimo Mantarro, which means excellent interpretations of local flavors and ingredients are pretty much guaranteed.

Pasticceria Cappello

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Pastries are mandatory. Sicily is, after all, the birthplace of classics like cannoli and granita. For the former, head to Pasticceria Cappello, a Palermo institution since 1950.

Savia Pastry

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On the southeast side of Catania is another institution – this one has been around since 1897 – that is unmissable for its mastery of two Sicilian staples: cannoli and arancini.

Baron of Villagrande

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And we can’t forget the vino. Etna’s food means the southeast has some of the most fertile vineyards in Sicily. This family winery (now in its tenth generation) has been exploiting the slopes of the volcano for 300 years and producing Etna wines long before the creation of the DOC.

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