Film locations in Italy: “White Lotus Season 2”

Mara Noveni | Live the World

May 29, 2024

Among the travel trends becoming more and more popular, there is certainly film tourism. Films, fiction, and TV series are an inspiration for all those who are glued in front of the screens and who dream of visiting the most fascinating and iconic places where the most beautiful scenes are set.

In Italy "Il Commissario Montalbano" was the forerunner, so much so that today there are guided tours of the places of the famous commissioner in Sicily. But the “Game of Thrones” saga filmed in various European countries, from Spain to Croatia, was no different. Even the most recent TV series make fans dream, and Taormina, a well-known Sicilian resort, is experiencing a real boom in bookings, especially from English and American tourists. Even the foreign press, from the New York Times to the Guardian, has noticed this, speaking of the "White Lotus Effect" and how Sicily is "hot" from a tourist point of view.

© Movie Player

So today I'm going to tell you another story about film locations in Italy: “White Lotus Season 2”. The seven episodes of the second and highly anticipated chapter of the award-winning TV series "White Lotus" were a nice surprise. In fact, this TV series - which won 10 Emmy Awards and the 2023 Golden Globe for best miniseries - in the first season was set in a beautiful resort in Hawaii, while the second chapter takes us on a new adventure in Sicily, a land rich in culture, history and natural beauty. Here, an exclusive luxury resort overlooking the Mediterranean welcomes its guests for an unforgettable one-week holiday amidst the wonders of the island.

© iStock / Ronald Balzan

But, behind the facade of elegance and sophistication, secrets and unresolved conflicts are hidden and will test the protagonists' ability to face life's challenges. The picturesque Sicilian countryside, ancient villages and majestic beaches become the stage for a story full of twists, intrigues and dramatic developments, in which each character must confront their own weaknesses and frailties. The second season of "White Lotus" is a visually extraordinary and immersive experience through the culture and beauty of Sicily, and is set within one of the most beautiful resorts not only in the region but in all of Italy. We are talking about the San Domenico Palace, renamed in fiction with the name of “White Lotus Resort”.

© San Domenico Palace / unknown

Taormina

In the historic centre of Taormina and a stone's throw from the Ancient Theatre, this hotel, which is part of the Four Seasons group, clinging to the rock, overlooks the gulf with a view of Isola Bella and Mount Etna. Housed in what was a convent in the fourteenth century, today it is one of the most sought-after addresses by celebrities who have always come to Italy and who often expressly ask to stay in the special suites named after Etna, the Theatre, or Princess Cecilia of Greece and Denmark.

© San Domenico Palace / unknown

The protagonists of the TV series are ordinary foreign families, rich and bored women (like Tanya, who was also in the first season, actress Jennifer Coolidge, already seen in the thriller series “The Watcher“), Hollywood producers, businessmen and adventurers, who have chosen Italy and Sicily, in particular, to spend a splendid Dolce Vita-style holiday in a luxury resort. An adventure halfway between a thriller and a social comedy, which unfolds under the eyes of Valentina (the talented Italian actress Sabrina Impacciatore), director of the White Lotus Sicilia, passionate and dedicated to her work, who rightly demands perfection from the staff.

© Movie Player

A bit in Agatha Christie style, also in this case the series begins with the dead man, indeed more than one. And it's all about reconstructing the events, mixed with the individual stories and the wonderful context in which the protagonists live for a week, in search of the murderer.

The Ancient Theatre

In the second episode, entitled "Italian Dream", the Di Grasso family decides to explore Taormina and also invites Portia. Their tour can only start from the most famous monument: the Ancient Theatre. Built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, it was then modified under the Roman Empire to be adapted to an amphitheatre.

To avoid the line at the ticket office of the Ancient Theatre, I suggest you book your ticket in advance, including priority access,  because visiting this famous archaeological site is an experience not to be missed.

The Isola Bella

In one of the most ambiguous scenes of The White Lotus Season 2, Daphne invites Harper for a walk on Isola Bella. This is one of the most suggestive places in Taormina as well as one of the most famous beaches in Sicily. A thin strip of sand connects the mainland to this small islet which is therefore easily accessible on foot.

The other locations of White Lotus season 2 in Taormina

Throughout the series, many other glimpses of Taormina are also seen, such as Corso Umberto, where Lucia often walks with Mia, or has an ice cream with Albie. In other shots, you can see Piazza IX Aprile, from which you can admire one of the most beautiful panoramas of Taormina and the nearby Clock Tower. The bar where Valentina stops for coffee every morning is the Bam Bar, an absolutely recommended stop to enjoy exquisite granitas. In the sequence of Ethan's morning jog, during the first episode, different corners of Castelmola are seen. It is a small village located above Taormina and included among the most beautiful villages in Italy. Among the various places of interest, we can recognize the square with the Cathedral of Castelmola and the famous Bar Vitelli.

© iStock / MariusLtu

Noto

The tour to discover the Sicilian locations of The White Lotus Season 2 continues and takes us to Noto. Famous all over the world for the wealth of Baroque-style churches, palaces and monuments, this Sicilian city was completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1683. The walk along the main street is a succession of stone works of art, created on the occasion of the reconstruction. In 2002, Unesco declared sixteen monuments of Noto a World Heritage Site, including them in the itinerary Late Baroque Cities of the Val Di Noto.

In order not to miss the most characteristic places of Noto, I suggest you book a Baroque Architecture and City Highlights Guided Tour, lasting about 3 hours, which includes a visit to the city with a focus on Baroque architecture. You will visit the Cathedral, the Palazzo Ducezio, the great palaces and the imposing churches, accompanied by an expert local guide.

© iStock / CAHKT

Villa Elena

In the fifth episode of the series, Tanya is left alone in Taormina by her husband Greg and decides to follow Quentin and his friends to their villa in Palermo. The place used is the splendid Villa Elena, which however is actually located just outside the city of Noto. It is a former 17th-century monastery that the interior designer Jacques Garcia bought and renovated. Watching the episodes, it is immediately clear that the furnishings of the house have a particular charm. Garcia was in fact inspired by the Baroque decorations of the Roman palaces. Inside you can thus find mahogany chairs, a splendid ceramic fireplace from Caltagirone, tapestries and even a painting representing Mary Magdalene by the French painter Ingres. The villa and its outbuildings can be rented on request.

© Jacques Garcia Noto / unknown

In the episode “The Male Elephants”, Harper and Daphne decide to visit Noto. The scenes in which Harper is convinced that she is being watched by all the male inhabitants of Noto take place along the steps of the San Francesco Church. This was built between 1704 and 1745 and is one of the monuments part of the World Heritage Sites.

© iStock / lucamato

In some shots of the third episode, you can also see two of the most iconic places in Noto: the Cathedral of San Nicolò and Palazzo Ducezio, both World Heritage Sites. The Cathedral of Noto was built in the first half of the eighteenth century and then collapsed in 1996. After seven years of work, the church was completely rebuilt, according to its original appearance. Palazzo Ducezio is, instead, the seat of the Noto town hall. Inside there is the magnificent Hall of Mirrors, an oval-shaped room decorated with sumptuous mirrors, stuccos and gold in the Louis XV style.

Cefalù

Following the events of the protagonists, the next stop to discover the places of The White Lotus Season 2 is Cefalù. It is a small fishing village located one hour from Palermo. Its magnificent Cathedral is certainly the most famous monument to see, but it is definitely not the only one. It is therefore no coincidence that Cefalù is included among the most beautiful villages in Italy.

© iStock / Cristian Mircea Balate

It may appear strange to you, but most of the scenes shot on the beach, as well as those opening the first episode, were shot more than 200 kilometres from Taormina. What you see is in fact the beach of Lido di Cefalù. Paying attention, in fact, you can recognize in the background the Cathedral of Cefalù and the Rocca overlooking the whole village. The director Mark White, for cinematographic needs, preferred to use a much larger beach than the one in Taormina.

© iStock / Marketa Vydrova

Another of the monuments that you can see, in the episodes filmed in Cefalù, is the Duomo. Unesco has declared it a World Heritage Site within the itinerary: Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale. The facade of the church is made imposing by two large towers with a square base which symbolize the temporal power of the crown and the spiritual power of the church. The visit to the Cathedral of Cefalù is free but, by purchasing a separate ticket, you can also visit the magnificent cloister, the Cathedral Treasury and climb the towers and roofs of the church.

Palermo

In the episode "That's Amore" Tanya will attend a performance of the opera Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. Unfortunately for the director, the Teatro Massimo was not available at the time of filming. So, it appears only externally. For the internal scenes, the Vincenzo Bellini Theatre in Catania was used, another jewel that is worth seeing.

© iStock / Tamas Gabor

Castello degli Schiavi

Dominic and Bert Di Grado are two fans of the movie The Godfather. Their trip to Sicily, therefore, becomes a unique opportunity to see live the places of Francis Ford Coppola's trilogy. This is the Castello degli Schiavi, a noble residence located in Fiumefreddo, a small town half an hour's drive from Taormina. In the TV series, the place is a house owned by the Corleone family. This is where Michael moves in with Apollonia after her marriage and where he will teach her to drive.

Staying on the subject of films, I propose an exhilarating experience to live, in the footsteps of the film "The Godfather". I'm telling you about the Godfather and Mafia Tour with Sicilian Lunch, not to be missed! The tour includes a visit to the places where the film was shot, a guide who will tell you a little about the history of Sicily and a little about the film, and a stop in a very nice restaurant to taste traditional Sicilian dishes.

© Get Your Guide
© Castello degli Schiavi

In conclusion, the second season of White Lotus took us on a journey through the beauties of Sicily. This region of Italy has been able to offer a perfect setting for the adventures of the characters in the series, thanks to its combination of nature, culture and history.

From the beaches of Taormina to the beauties of Cefalù, from the baroque beauty of Noto to the picturesque city of Palermo, White Lotus Season 2 has shown us the best of what Sicily has to offer. But besides the iconic places, it also gave us an authentic experience of the Sicilian culture, from the culinary art to the local music and traditions.

In summary, White Lotus Season 2 demonstrated how Sicily is a first-class tourist destination, capable of offering visitors a unique combination of natural beauty, culture and history. I hope that the series has left you with an irrepressible desire to visit this marvellous Italian region and discover even more of its innumerable beauties and that my description of the places on the film locations in Italy: "White Lotus Season 2", will make you decide to come and visit a little bit of Sicily!

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