The White LotusMike White’s witty satire about eating the rich has returned to HBO for a second season of the year, leaving behind the paradise veneer of Hawaii for sweet life the splendor of Sicily. A new cast of characters—plus favorite trainwreck on the way back, Tanya (played expertly 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 resides in the Sicilian White Lotus Hotel, and while the rumble of simmering tension and doom that constantly descends on this privileged group is not enviable, the same cannot be said for those scenic coastal environments. they are temporarily resident.
There’s more to it all than just Instagram-perfect moments, of course. Sicily is an island – the largest in the Mediterranean – with an incredibly rich and turbulent history. The earliest signs of human activity here date back to 12,000 BC, and due to its geographical location, it has been invaded, occupied and fought over by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French – all resulting in what is today a vibrant and diverse cultural destination. And then there’s its pièce de résistance: Mount Etna, Italy’s largest volcano, rising above the northeast, as majestic as it is volatile.
Most The White Lotus takes place in the shadow of Mount Etna in the charming cliff-top town of Taormina, although our characters often venture off-campus on cultural excursions, whether to explore ancient villages or tour the GodfatherS ‘ filming locations. In the spirit of the show’s second season, a T&C travel guide for planning your idyllic – and, hopefully, drama-free – trip to Taormina and beyond.
Where to stay
San Domenico Palace, a four-season hotel
San Domenico Palace may 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, after his death, handed it over to the Dominican religious order for use as 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, royalty and men of letters over the next century, from King Edward VII and the Rothschilds , to Oscar Wilde. and DH Lawrence, to feature stars such as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1960, he even made a show as the scene of a party at Michelangelo Antonioni’s house adventuresstarring Monica Vitti (The White Lotus so far it has been ripe with references to legendary Italian actress – more below).
Perched high on a cliff with Mount Etna in the backyard and the Ionian Sea stretching out in front, the 111-key Four Seasons is all modern luxury with touches of period beauty. You want the truth White lotus experience? Spring for one of the resort’s five spectacular specialty suites, which feature private pools 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, at Hotel Belmond
Prefer to be closer to the water? Located in the secluded bay of Mazzaro, the 71-room Villa Sant’Andrea, a Belmond, feels more like an aristocratic residence than a hotel. And he has been attracted to the guy since the 50s. Lush landscaping, a private beach and lavishly appointed rooms (most of which have sea views and terraces) add to its rarefied patina. The center of Taormina is just 3 minutes away by cable car – or better yet, spend a few extra nights at Belmond’s other property up there, the equally aristocratic Grand Hotel Timeo.
Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte hotel
Spending time in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is a must. It has a distinct everything-everywhere-all-at-once quality, with its mix of bustling open markets, narrow overcrowded streets, grand palaces, ruined buildings bombed during the Second World War and architectural monuments left by almost every conqueror, from 12th-century Arab-Norman churches to to the baroque squares. That means Villa Igiea will be a godsend after a whirlwind afternoon that has soaked it all. And although it’s only 10 minutes from the city centre, it’ll feel a world away thanks to its tranquil seaside location and fabulous gardens.
What to see
Valley of the Temples
Sicily is home to an incredible collection of ancient Greek art and architecture second only to the Acropolis itself – and some are packed into this 3,000-acre archaeological site in Agrigento, home of seven Doric temples of the period, including the exceptionally well-preserved Temple of Concordia.
The ancient theater of Taormina
Built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC for music and drama, then later expanded by the Romans to accommodate gladiator sports, the Greek theater is as important for its archaeological significance as it is for those magnificent views. Bonus points if you’re able to tell a tale of Greek mythology to your travel companions.
The 18th century estate that houses Michael Corleone Godfather makes an appearance in an episode of The White Lotus: Di Grasso patriarch Bert organizes a tour of the iconic film’s filming locations, a walk that ends with lunch—and a lively debate on toxic masculinity—on the patio. In real life Castello degli Schiavi is a private house, although its owner will personally lead private tours.
While Di Grasso’s men have left godfather adventure, Daphne and Harper embark on a day trip to Noto. Part of a group of late Baroque towns that were rebuilt in the 1700s after an earthquake essentially destroyed the entire region, Noto is a period gem packed with ornate palazzos and towering cathedrals.
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. The various monarchs who came to rule Sicily for the next 700 years continued to use the Norman Palace as their seat of power. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Regional Assembly of Sicily.
Where to eat
The 16-star Michelin restaurant, in a bougainvillea-clad corner of the Grand Hotel Timeo (Belmond’s other property in Taormina), is one of Sicily’s most unique gastronomic experiences. In the hands of head chef Roberto Toro, the tasting menu is an innovative celebration of the island’s freshest ingredients – think prawns with caviar, amber flavored with saffron, mascarpone with dates, kohlrabi with burrata.
Dinners at White Lotus can be awkward routine affairs, but yours doesn’t have to be at the fictional Four Seasons restaurant. The elegant Michelin-starred Principe Cerami is run by a local Sicilian, chef Massimo Mantarro, meaning excellent interpretations of local flavors and ingredients are almost guaranteed.
Confectioner with hats
Desserts are mandatory. Sicily is, after all, the birthplace of classics such as cannoli and granita. For the former, head to Pasticceria Cappello, a Palermo institution since 1950.
On the south-eastern side of Catania is another institution – this one since 1897 – that is indispensable for the mastery of two main Sicilian elements: cannoli and arancini.
Baron of Villagrande
And we can’t forget about the vino. The feed of Mount Etna means that the southeast has some of the most fertile vineyards in Sicily. This family-owned winery (now in its tenth generation) has farmed the slopes of the volcano for 300 years and has been producing Etna wines since long before the DOC was created.
Leena Kim is an associate editor at City and Countrywhere she writes about travel, weddings, arts and culture.
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