With lavish Baroque villas, exotic gardens, dramatic landscapes, ancient art and a seductive vibe, Sicily seems to be the perfect location for season two of dark comedy series “The White Lotus.”
The award-winning show charts the tangled, erotic and sometimes dangerous adventures of super-rich vacationers staying at the beautiful clifftop San Domenico Palace, a five-star resort operated by Four Seasons in the town of Taormina.
A former 14th-century monastery with unique views of the Etna volcano and coastline, the hotel is as much a star of the show as its cast of Hollywood and Italian A-listers. And, says its real-life manager, Lorenzo Maraviglia, it’s a match for its fictional counterpart.
“The resort’s real vibe is very much similar to what you see and feel in the series,” he tells CNN Travel. “It’s vibrant, it’s about Sicily – both romantic and sexy –and about our incredible guests who this year included Madonna and Sharon Stone.”
Made for HBO (which, like CNN, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery), the series is filmed around Taormina, Noto, Cefalù and Palermo, but the San Domenico Palace is at the heart of the intrigue and steamy liaisons that develop over the course of the seven-episode season.
And while guests looking for their own White Lotus escape might not get quite the same racy experiences, Maraviglia insists his hotel will at least deliver the same level of service enjoyed by the show’s characters.
The success of the series is based on the reality of what occurs in a luxury hotel; the interactions between staff and clients, and among clients, are very real,” he says.
But the “extreme situations like the two local escorts coming and going to entertain guests are part of the drama and theatrics that add a layer of spiciness,” he adds, insisting that things generally happen at a more sedate pace – as far as he’s aware.
“We may notice if there are weird movements if a situation becomes obvious, but Taormina and our resort are places where such things usually don’t happen. It’s for families and couples on their honeymoon. Even if someone may have a weekend adventure, it is not perceivable by us.”
Visitors to the San Domenico Palace will find it exactly as portrayed in “The White Lotus.” Those connecting doors between suites really exist. There are lush gardens for sunset drinks, pretty cloisters, a panoramic pool and a terrace overlooking the bay where guests have breakfast and a Michelin-starred restaurant where the show’s characters often argue.
Not that Sicily is any stranger to frisson. The island has an ancient Greek heritage of sexual freedoms – a past reflected in the series, with pagan statues and religious frescoes silently witnessing the wealthy guests’ extravagant activities.
Taormina is seen in all its glamor: the imposing ancient Greek theater, the panoramic piazzetta, the pastel-colored dwellings, elegant alleys with cafés and glossy boutiques, the chic restaurants like Baronessa where one bickering couple’s dinner scene is filmed.
The best suites in the hotel, where most of the show’s sex scenes take place, have plunge pools and paintings of saints made by the monks who once lived there.
“The decor, the rooms, it’s all original, what you see is real, even the staff uniforms,” says Maraviglia.
While Maraviglia may not have had to field some of the more outlandish guest requests that crop up in “White Lotus,” he says he’s had to deal with extravagant requests since the San Domenico opened last year as part of the Four Seasons chain.
“Some guests wanted to visit the Aeolian isles with a private helicopter and rent a yacht to Syracuse which is only an hour’s drive away,” he says.