The White Lotus, writer-director Mike White's Emmy-winning social satire about privileged, problematic Americans on disenchanting luxury vacations, returns for a second installment starting Sunday, October 30, on HBO Max.
After a hit first season set in Hawaii, the latest go-round unfolds at a different outpost in the fictional White Lotus resort chain, this time on the Italian island of Sicily, where the series was shot on location.
Among the guests: first-season returnees Jennifer Coolidge (currently in the midst of a much-deserved "Jenaissance") and Jon Gries, along with an otherwise all-new cast including F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, and Aubrey Plaza.
Built as a convent in the 14th century, the hotel occupies a spectacular clifftop spot with views of the Ionian Sea and nearby Mount Etna.
(Mount Etna and San Domenico Palace, Taormina, a Four Seasons Hotel in Sicily, Italy | Photo: Peter Vitale / Four Seasons)
The show makes extensive use of the hotel's sumptuous facilities—three restaurants, two bars, an infinity pool, a spa—as well as some of its 111 guest rooms and suites, many of which have private balconies with plunge pools.
(Infinity pool at San Domenico Palace, Taormina, a Four Seasons Hotel in Sicily, Italy | Photo: Peter Vitale / Four Seasons)
According to Architectural Digest, a recent multimillion-dollar makeover of the hotel added smoked mirrors, bronze details, and contemporary furnishings to complement "museum-quality artwork" and period architectural details such as columns, arcades, and vaulted ceilings.
(Palace suite at San Domenico Palace, Taormina, a Four Seasons Hotel in Sicily, Italy | Photo: Peter Vitale / Four Seasons)
The White Lotus gang are far from the first bold-faced names to have spent time here. Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and a few royals have been guests as well.
(Theo James, Meghann Fahy, Will Sharpe, and Aubrey Plaza in the second season of The White Lotus | Photo courtesy of HBO)
As the Washington Post points out, the action of the second season is able to "spill out onto the streets of Sicily and its surrounding towns" more than the first installment could leave the grounds of its Maui resort because that one was filmed amid strict Covid restrictions.
During filming, season two cast members were spotted in Sicilian locations such as Palermo and Noto and on yachts on the Ionian Sea. The trailer features glorious footage of Coolidge taking a coastal ride on a Vespa.
Still, it's safe to say the hotel is the show's primary set.
(Haley Lu Richardson and Jennifer Coolidge in the second season of The White Lotus | Photograph by Fabio Lovino / HBO)
The San Domenico Palace doesn't just play an ultra-expensive hotel on TV. Staying in character even after the cameras go off, the place charges rates starting around €900 (about $900) per night, with suites costing up to five times that much.
If, like most of us, you don't have that kind of vacation budget, maybe you can take consolation in knowing that the hotel, however stunning, proves entirely ineffective in relieving the misery of the show's characters.
Season two of The White Lotus premieres Sunday, October 30, on HBO Max.