The ‘sexy’ reality behind Sicily’s ‘White Lotus’ hotel


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(CNN) — With lavish Baroque villas, exotic gardens, spectacular landscapes, historical art and a seductive vibe, Sicily appears to be to be the best location for season two of dim comedy collection “The White Lotus.”

The award-profitable demonstrate charts the tangled, erotic and often risky adventures of super-loaded vacationers remaining at the wonderful clifftop San Domenico Palace, a 5-star resort operated by 4 Seasons in the town of Taormina.

A previous 14th-century monastery with exclusive views of the Etna volcano and coastline, the resort is as much a star of the demonstrate as its solid of Hollywood and Italian A-listers. And, claims its actual-life supervisor, Lorenzo Maraviglia, it’s a match for its fictional counterpart.

“The resort’s serious vibe is extremely significantly comparable to what you see and sense in the series,” he tells CNN Journey. “It’s vibrant, it is about Sicily — the two intimate and sexy –and about our remarkable attendees who this year integrated Madonna and Sharon Stone.”

Made for HBO (which, like CNN, is component of Warner Bros. Discovery), the series is filmed all over Taormina, Noto, Cefalù and Palermo, but the San Domenico Palace is at the coronary heart of the intrigue and steamy liaisons that acquire more than the course of the 7-episode time.

And whilst friends wanting for their individual White Lotus escape may not get fairly the exact same racy activities, Maraviglia insists his lodge will at minimum supply the exact level of assistance enjoyed by the show’s figures.

“The success of the series is based on the fact of what occurs in a luxury lodge the interactions among staff and consumers, and amongst clients, are quite genuine,” he claims.

But the “extreme scenarios like the two neighborhood escorts coming and heading to entertain guests are aspect of the drama and theatrics that incorporate a layer of spiciness,” he provides, insisting that issues typically materialize at a extra sedate rate — as far as he is aware.

“We might discover if there are unusual movements if a predicament gets to be apparent, but Taormina and our vacation resort are sites wherever these kinds of points commonly don’t transpire. It really is for people and couples on their honeymoon. Even if another person may possibly have a weekend journey, it is not perceivable by us.”

Website visitors to the San Domenico Palace will obtain it exactly as portrayed in “The White Lotus.” People connecting doors involving suites actually exist. There are lush gardens for sunset beverages, really cloisters, a panoramic pool and a terrace overlooking the bay where by company have breakfast and a Michelin-starred restaurant exactly where the show’s figures often argue.

Not that Sicily is any stranger to frisson. The island has an ancient Greek heritage of sexual freedoms — a previous mirrored in the sequence, with pagan statues and spiritual frescoes silently witnessing the wealthy guests’ extravagant pursuits.

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 hotel in Sicily.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Taormina is noticed in all its glamor: the imposing historic Greek theater, the panoramic piazzetta, the pastel-coloured dwellings, classy alleys with cafés and glossy boutiques, the stylish dining establishments like Baronessa wherever a person bickering couple’s evening meal scene is filmed.

The best suites in the lodge, wherever most of the show’s intercourse scenes choose location, have plunge pools and paintings of saints manufactured by the monks who the moment lived there.

“The decor, the rooms, it’s all first, what you see is actual, even the team uniforms,” states Maraviglia.

When Maraviglia could not have experienced to area some of the far more outlandish guest requests that crop up in “White Lotus,” he claims he’s experienced to offer with extravagant requests since the San Domenico opened previous calendar year as portion of the 4 Seasons chain.

“Some company required to stop by the Aeolian isles with a private helicopter and lease a yacht to Syracuse which is only an hour’s push away,” he states.

Physically, there are only two authentic deviations from actuality — the seashore scenes and photographs depicting the company arriving by boat. The resort, perched 400-meters atop Taormina’s substantial rocky plateau, has no sea access. The private deck of a close by fish cafe, La Cambusa at Giardini Naxos, was utilized to film sea-arrival scenes.

And because the resort has no private shoreline, the close by Unahotels Capotaormina resort is exactly where guests can love solar loungers and umbrellas at a beach front club carved into a reddish cliff flanked by rock arches and sea stacks, overlooking the small island of Isolabella.

The islet, which also options in “White Lotus,” is connected to the shore by a slim strip of sand and is 1 of Sicily’s most wonderful and well-liked snorkeling places many thanks to its emerald-eco-friendly, however waters. It’s component of an archeological park and has a villa surrounded by unique crops that hosts a botanical museum.

Most bathing and underwater scenes had been shot at the general public seaside of the picturesque fishermen village of Cefalú, among Taormina and Palermo.

Taormina’s bay witnessed true-lifestyle intrigue back in 1955, when a Polish heiress was allegedly drowned by her partner under mysterious situations claimed to be joined to an inheritance.

Spats involving partners in “The White Lotus” are also accurate to daily life. In 1967 a furious Elizabeth Taylor evidently smashed a mandolin above Richard Burton’s head on the terrace of their suite.

Plant pots and phalluses

The hotel building is a 14th century former monastery.

The hotel setting up is a 14th century previous monastery.

San Domenico Palace, 4 Seasons

You will find a whole lot of Sicilian lore in “The White Lotus,” along with references to the island’s mafia connections.

A ceramic sculpture of a bearded Moor’s head is commonly demonstrated in the clearly show as a symbol of betrayal, a nod to a area legend relationship again to medieval instances. It is really claimed one of Sicily’s Arabic occupiers experienced his head chopped off and applied as a plant pot by a female he had an affair with.

“This story embodies the Sicilian essence of enjoy, passion and vengeance which are all represented in the ‘The White Lotus,'” states Sonia Bonamassa, San Domenico’s general public relations coordinator. “She beheads the Moor due to the fact she loves him but he has betrayed her.”

These testa di moro ceramic heads are currently employed by Sicilians as vases, lamp holders, citrus bowls and flower pots or just to enhance rooms.

The mori are emblematic of Sicily’s Arabic heritage. Other area mementoes incorporate colourful pigne pine nut-formed ceramics that are considered by Sicilians to deliver great luck.

“Director Mike White was really receptive of these regional things, we might joke about them and he integrated a lot of of our solutions in the period, like Italian songs, adapting his method to fact,” suggests Maraviglia.

A single tip that did not make the cut, most likely mainly because it was much too extraordinary even for these types of an erotically billed present, was a local watering hole that the actors nicknamed “the penis bar.”

Bar Turrisi, in the picturesque medieval village of Castelmola in close proximity to Taormina, is loaded with objects formed like phalluses. “Bottles, watches, cups, every thing,” states Maraviglia. Even staircases and flooring tiles have penises.

Waitress Giorgia Ponturo states the (serious) resort employees and crew regularly visited soon after a rough day of capturing and hopes the sequence will attract visitors to quieter, lesser-recognized destinations all over Taormina like Castelmola.

“This bar dates back to 1947, it made use of to be a brothel and homosexual hotspot,” suggests Ponturo. “Then the proprietor resolved to undertake the phallus motif, which was an historic Greek symbol of sexual efficiency and fertility, to reaffirm the virility of Sicilian males. It also brings great luck.”

Wild get-togethers 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 supervisor claims authentic-lifetime attendees can hope the exact same degree of luxurious noticed in the clearly show.

San Domenico Palace, Four Seasons

Some scenes had been filmed at a renaissance palace identified as Villa Tasca, which is really situated in the city of Monreale, around Palermo. Set in just a lush park it has luxurious frescoes and statues, king-sized rooms and an exotic pool-pond with fresh new spring water. Rented for weddings and private activities, it is reported German composer Richard Wagner stayed below when making a single of his masterpieces.

A further extravagant mansion featured in “The White Lotus” as the scene of an orgy is Villa Elena, which sits between olive groves in the vicinity of Noto. It can be decorated with previous tapestries and marble parts and has a huge pool jutting out of a temple.

“The White Lotus” pays homage to “The Godfather” mafia films, showcasing the location of a common scene — Castello degli Schiavi in Fiumefreddo, an tasteful castle with a cloister. It truly is a personal house open up to guided tours and events bookings.

The greatest of Sicilian foods is showcased in the sequence, much too. Attendees gulp down ricotta-crammed cannoli, cassata cakes, gelato and arancini rice-balls. People frequently quaff community rosé and Martini. Two partners devote a wine-tasting day at the Planeta canteen on Mount Etna’s flanks, in which the volcano’s fertile black soil generates leading bottles such as Eruzione (“eruption.”)

Given that the 1800s Taormina has been a VIP global hotspot renowned for its wild events and sexual independence that harked back to the pagan Greek times when homosexuality was the norm. Anglo-Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was a single regular customer.

It is mentioned Taormina may possibly have been the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” The creator and his spouse were company at San Domenico Palace in the early 1920s and the e-book was seemingly impressed by an affair amongst Mrs. Lawrence and a regional donkey rider.

World wide spotlight

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

Contrary to in the display, visitors can’t definitely get there at the lodge by boat.

Fabio Lovino/HBO

Locals hope the global advertising of Taormina in “White Lotus” will further more attract visitors to Sicily and enhance its appeal as a Hollywood phase.

Giacomo Chillé of Find Messina journey company plans to arrange guided excursions to the series’ places. “There is certainly monumental potential in cine-turismo (tourism connected to movies), we presently consider Us citizens to ‘The Godfather’s’ places with personalized excursions,” he reported.

Not everybody is happy. Enzo Anastasi, proprietor of hotel La Canna, on the offbeat Filicudi isle in the Aeolian archipelago, is concerned about “dumbing down Sicily to a prosperous man’s Disneyland.”

He mentioned: “These American collection boost and portray the standard tremendous-loaded folks and their glamorous places, which are not the actual, reliable soul of Sicily in which traditions and simple life endure.”

Taormina regional Giuseppe Quattrocchi, owner of Le Bistrot du Monde restaurant, thinks the series will be a godsend for Taormina’s tourism but claims he did not enjoy how Sicily was at occasions portrayed.

“When 3 friends go looking for their ancestors in a remote village and get kicked out by their alleged relatives, which is the opposite from our inbred hospitality,” he suggests. “Also, the escorts and the reference to regional legal organizations depict a adverse image.”

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