Theater & Cinema

Discover Sicilian Art with The White Lotus Season 2

Anna Ingram 23 February 2024 min Read

Season two of The White Lotus on HBO Max has gained much press recently about its filming location in Sicily, Italy. Through interviews with the cast and crew, viewers learned all about the Sicilian experience. But what about the history and architecture featured on the show? The show featured San Domenico Palace’s Catholic routes, the Renaissance Villa Tasca, an ancient theatre, and much more!

San Domenico Palace

The White Lotus: The cloister courtyard, San Domenico Palace, Taormina, Italy. Peter Vitale/Four Seasons.

The cloister courtyard, San Domenico Palace, Taormina, Italy. Peter Vitale/Four Seasons.

With origins dating back to 1374, this classic Dominican convent was expanded in 1896 to become a hotel, featuring a new building designed in liberty style.

Four Seasons Hotel Website

About San Domenico Palace, Taormina, Italy.

The White Lotus: The Four Seasons San Domenico Palace in Taormina, Sicily. Architectural Digest. 

The Four Seasons San Domenico Palace in Taormina, Sicily. Architectural Digest. 

As viewers know, most of season two is filmed at the San Domenico Palace in Taormina, Italy. Today, the Four Seasons Hotel is perched on a mountain overlooking the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. However, the hotel’s location is full of history as it was previously a Dominican monastery since the 14th century. Saint Dominic founded the Catholic order in Toulouse, France, during the 13th century. By 1374 the order was known throughout Europe and had established a  convent in Taormina.

Today, the hotel still acknowledges its past through historic buildings and rooms. For instance, the former Catholic convent is now known as the Garden Wing. Included in the Garden Wing is the Grand Cloister (the courtyard), built in the 15th century and remodeled during the 17th century! While the San Domenico Palace is centuries old, the cast of the White Lotus travels around Sicily to more historical sites.

Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi all’Immacolata

The White Lotus: Still from The White Lotus, directed by Fabio Lovino, 2022. CN Traveler.

Still from The White Lotus, directed by Fabio Lovino, 2022. CN Traveler.

For example, Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Harper (Aubrey Plaza) are shown walking down the steps of the Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi all’Immacolata in Noto, Italy. In this scene, creator Mike White pays tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 film L’avventura. 

However, Noto is famous for its late Baroque cathedrals (35 in total) and historic palazzos. Incredibly, the town was reconstructed after an earthquake destroyed the city and killed half its population in 1693. Next on the list is Villa Tasca, which Daphne famously rents for one night to mess with her husband.

Villa Tasca

The White Lotus: Villa Tasca, Palermo, Italy. Stefano Corso/Harpers Bazaar.

Villa Tasca, Palermo, Italy. Stefano Corso/Harpers Bazaar.

In episode 3, Daphne and Harper travel to the enchanting town of Noto, but in reality, filming took place in Palermo at Villa Tasca. This 16th-century Italian villa is a gorgeous display of neoclassical architecture and trompe-l’oeil frescoes. The frescoes in Villa Tasca were also used in the opening sequence of The White Lotus. Parts of the villa have Renaissance roots dating back to the 1500s. In comparison, the 20-acre garden screams the late-1800s. As for episode four, we follow the cast to another historical site, Teatro Antico!

Teatro Antico

The White Lotus: The ancient theatre of Taormina, Italy. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

The ancient theatre of Taormina, Italy. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Furthermore, the ancient theatre of Taormina is where Albie (Adam DiMarco) takes his dad and grandfather in episode 4. This might be the oldest site used as a filming location and has breathtaking views.

Discovered through evidence under the Roman cavea (the seating sections), the site was originally a Hellenistic theatre built in the third century BCE. Remarkably, the theatre was rebuilt under Roman rule in the third century CE. By this point, the theatre was upgraded to fit the needs of performances, such as remodeling the orchestra into an arena. Teatro Antico is one of the oldest theaters in the coastal areas of Southern Italy.

Villa Elena

The White Lotus: Villa Elena, Palermo, Italy. Oberto Gili Inc/Architectural Digest.

Villa Elena, Palermo, Italy. Oberto Gili Inc/Architectural Digest.

Lastly, another monastery was used as a filming location in The White Lotus, Villa Elena in episode 5. The palazzo, owned by Quentin (Tom Hollander), who invited Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) to visit.

According to Architectural Digest, Villa Elena is actually owned by interior designer Jacques Garcia. Jacques Garcia previously told AD, “This 17th-century monastery is built on a 12th-century Norman villa, which replaced a 10th-century Moorish palace, which replaced a fifth-century Roman house, which replaced a Greek villa of the third century before Jesus Christ.”

So it’s safe to say the villa is full of history and architecture.

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