The ‘sexy’ reality guiding Sicily’s ‘White Lotus’ resort

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(CNN) — With lavish Baroque villas, exotic gardens, remarkable landscapes, ancient artwork and a seductive vibe, Sicily appears to be the ideal site for year two of dark comedy sequence “The White Lotus.”

The award-profitable exhibit charts the tangled, erotic and occasionally unsafe adventures of tremendous-wealthy vacationers being at the beautiful clifftop San Domenico Palace, a five-star resort operated by Four Seasons in the city of Taormina.

A former 14th-century monastery with distinctive views of the Etna volcano and coastline, the lodge is as considerably a star of the demonstrate as its cast of Hollywood and Italian A-listers. And, states its real-lifestyle supervisor, Lorenzo Maraviglia, it really is a match for its fictional counterpart.

“The resort’s authentic vibe is extremely much similar to what you see and sense in the series,” he tells CNN Vacation. “It’s lively, it truly is about Sicily — equally passionate and hot –and about our remarkable company who this year provided Madonna and Sharon Stone.”

Produced for HBO (which, like CNN, is component of Warner Bros. Discovery), the sequence is filmed all-around Taormina, Noto, Cefalù and Palermo, but the San Domenico Palace is at the coronary heart of the intrigue and steamy liaisons that develop around the system of the seven-episode period.

And although friends looking for their personal White Lotus escape might not get rather the similar racy ordeals, Maraviglia insists his resort will at minimum deliver the very same degree of support appreciated by the show’s people.

“The good results of the series is centered on the truth of what takes place in a luxury resort the interactions amongst staff members and consumers, and among consumers, are really genuine,” he states.

But the “extraordinary situations like the two local escorts coming and going to entertain company are section of the drama and theatrics that include a layer of spiciness,” he provides, insisting that items usually occur at a additional sedate pace — as considerably as he’s aware.

“We may well recognize if there are strange movements if a situation gets to be clear, but Taormina and our vacation resort are spots in which these matters commonly don’t occur. It is really for households and couples on their honeymoon. Even if someone may have a weekend experience, it is not perceivable by us.”

Website visitors to the San Domenico Palace will uncover it accurately as portrayed in “The White Lotus.” These connecting doorways between suites really exist. There are lush gardens for sunset drinks, really cloisters, a panoramic pool and a terrace overlooking the bay in which attendees have breakfast and a Michelin-starred restaurant exactly where the show’s figures usually argue.

Not that Sicily is any stranger to frisson. The island has an historical Greek heritage of sexual freedoms — a past reflected in the sequence, with pagan statues and religious frescoes silently witnessing the rich guests’ extravagant things to do.

Saints and prostitutes

"The White Lotus" season 2 is filmed in the San Domenico Palace hotel in Sicily.

“The White Lotus” period 2 is filmed in the San Domenico Palace resort in Sicily.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Taormina is noticed in all its glamor: the imposing historic Greek theater, the panoramic piazzetta, the pastel-colored dwellings, sophisticated alleys with cafés and glossy boutiques, the chic dining places like Baronessa exactly where one bickering couple’s meal scene is filmed.

The best suites in the hotel, exactly where most of the show’s sexual intercourse scenes acquire area, have plunge swimming pools and paintings of saints built by the monks who after lived there.

“The decor, the rooms, it really is all authentic, what you see is serious, even the employees uniforms,” says Maraviglia.

Even though Maraviglia might not have experienced to industry some of the additional outlandish guest requests that crop up in “White Lotus,” he says he’s had to offer with extravagant requests because the San Domenico opened final calendar year as part of the Four Seasons chain.

“Some visitors needed to go to the Aeolian isles with a private helicopter and hire a yacht to Syracuse which is only an hour’s push absent,” he claims.

Physically, there are only two serious deviations from truth — the beach front scenes and photographs depicting the company arriving by boat. The vacation resort, perched 400-meters atop Taormina’s large rocky plateau, has no sea accessibility. The private deck of a close by fish cafe, La Cambusa at Giardini Naxos, was used to movie sea-arrival scenes.

And since the lodge has no private shoreline, the close by Unahotels Capotaormina resort is the place attendees can enjoy solar loungers and umbrellas at a seaside club carved into a reddish cliff flanked by rock arches and sea stacks, overlooking the compact island of Isolabella.

The islet, which also options in “White Lotus,” is linked to the shore by a narrow strip of sand and is a single of Sicily’s most gorgeous and preferred snorkeling spots many thanks to its emerald-inexperienced, still waters. It can be element of an archeological park and has a villa surrounded by unique plants that hosts a botanical museum.

Most bathing and underwater scenes were being shot at the general public beach of the picturesque fishermen village of Cefalú, involving Taormina and Palermo.

Taormina’s bay witnessed true-existence intrigue again in 1955, when a Polish heiress was allegedly drowned by her partner underneath mysterious situation explained to be joined to an inheritance.

Spats among partners in “The White Lotus” are also legitimate to lifestyle. In 1967 a furious Elizabeth Taylor apparently smashed a mandolin around Richard Burton’s head on the terrace of their suite.

Plant pots and phalluses

The hotel building is a 14th century former monastery.

The resort developing is a 14th century previous monastery.

San Domenico Palace, 4 Seasons

There’s a large amount of Sicilian lore in “The White Lotus,” together with references to the island’s mafia connections.

A ceramic sculpture of a bearded Moor’s head is usually proven in the clearly show as a symbol of betrayal, a nod to a nearby legend courting back to medieval occasions. It can be claimed a person of Sicily’s Arabic occupiers had his head chopped off and used as a plant pot by a woman he had an affair with.

“This story embodies the Sicilian essence of adore, passion and vengeance which are all represented in the ‘The White Lotus,'” suggests Sonia Bonamassa, San Domenico’s public relations coordinator. “She beheads the Moor mainly because she enjoys him but he has betrayed her.”

These testa di moro ceramic heads are these days utilized by Sicilians as vases, lamp holders, citrus bowls and flower pots or just to adorn rooms.

The mori are emblematic of Sicily’s Arabic heritage. Other local mementoes include things like vibrant pigne pine nut-shaped ceramics that are thought by Sicilians to carry excellent luck.

“Director Mike White was exceptionally receptive of these nearby issues, we’d joke about them and he provided numerous of our suggestions in the year, like Italian music, adapting his method to reality,” says Maraviglia.

A single idea that did not make the cut, in all probability due to the fact it was way too extreme even for these an erotically billed present, was a nearby watering hole that the actors nicknamed “the penis bar.”

Bar Turrisi, in the picturesque medieval village of Castelmola around Taormina, is filled with objects formed like phalluses. “Bottles, watches, cups, all the things,” states Maraviglia. Even staircases and flooring tiles have penises.

Waitress Giorgia Ponturo claims the (true) hotel workers and crew on a regular basis frequented after a tough working day of shooting and hopes the series will draw visitors to quieter, lesser-recognized places all over Taormina like Castelmola.

“This bar dates again to 1947, it used to be a brothel and homosexual hotspot,” suggests Ponturo. “Then the operator made the decision to adopt the phallus motif, which was an historical Greek image of sexual potency and fertility, to reaffirm the virility of Sicilian adult men. It also delivers fantastic luck.”

Wild parties and lavish mansions

The hotel's manager says real-life guests can expect the same level of luxury seen in the show.

The hotel’s manager claims genuine-lifestyle friends can count on the identical level of luxury seen in the display.

San Domenico Palace, 4 Seasons

Some scenes were filmed at a renaissance palace called Villa Tasca, which is actually positioned in the city of Monreale, near Palermo. Established within just a lush park it has sumptuous frescoes and statues, king-sized rooms and an exotic pool-pond with refreshing spring h2o. Rented for weddings and non-public occasions, it is claimed German composer Richard Wagner stayed in this article though making one particular of his masterpieces.

An additional extravagant mansion featured in “The White Lotus” as the scene of an orgy is Villa Elena, which sits among the olive groves around Noto. It really is adorned with aged tapestries and marble parts and has a substantial pool jutting out of a temple.

“The White Lotus” pays homage to “The Godfather” mafia films, featuring the location of a classic scene — Castello degli Schiavi in Fiumefreddo, an stylish castle with a cloister. It truly is a non-public residence open up to guided tours and situations bookings.

The very best of Sicilian food stuff is showcased in the collection, way too. Guests gulp down ricotta-crammed cannoli, cassata cakes, gelato and arancini rice-balls. People consistently quaff nearby rosé and Martini. Two couples shell out a wine-tasting day at the Planeta canteen on Mount Etna’s flanks, the place the volcano’s fertile black soil creates major bottles such as Eruzione (“eruption.”)

Because the 1800s Taormina has been a VIP international hotspot renowned for its wild events and sexual flexibility that harked back again to the pagan Greek days when homosexuality was the norm. Anglo-Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was a single frequent customer.

It is said Taormina may well have been the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” The writer and his wife have been company at San Domenico Palace in the early 1920s and the reserve was apparently encouraged by an affair in between Mrs. Lawrence and a regional donkey rider.

World wide spotlight

Unlike in the show, guests can't really arrive at the hotel by boat.

Not like in the clearly show, guests can’t actually arrive at the lodge by boat.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Locals hope the international marketing of Taormina in “White Lotus” will further draw tourists to Sicily and increase its appeal as a Hollywood phase.

Giacomo Chillé of Uncover Messina vacation company strategies to manage guided excursions to the series’ locations. “There is massive prospective in cine-turismo (tourism joined to films), we presently consider People to ‘The Godfather’s’ spots with tailored journeys,” he mentioned.

Not everybody is satisfied. Enzo Anastasi, owner of lodge La Canna, on the offbeat Filicudi isle in the Aeolian archipelago, is worried about “dumbing down Sicily to a rich man’s Disneyland.”

He reported: “These American sequence boost and portray the normal tremendous-loaded men and women and their glamorous spots, which are not the real, authentic soul of Sicily exactly where traditions and easy lifestyles survive.”

Taormina community Giuseppe Quattrocchi, proprietor of Le Bistrot du Monde cafe, thinks the series will be a godsend for Taormina’s tourism but claims he failed to enjoy how Sicily was at times portrayed.

“When 3 friends go seeking for their ancestors in a distant village and get kicked out by their alleged kinfolk, that is the reverse from our inbred hospitality,” he suggests. “Also, the escorts and the reference to neighborhood felony businesses depict a unfavorable picture.”