A TV series set in Taormina that fascinates viewers with a historic luxury hotel chosen as a backdrop. With the airing of the TV series White Lotus, Taormina in Sicily has become the place of desire of the American tourist-fans. Last November, a few hours after the final episode was aired on Hbo, web searches from America for hotels in Taormina shot up by 50 percent and the phenomenon did not stop, spreading to countries where gradually the series was being rolled out. The series focuses on events, around a group of very wealthy guests of an Italian resort over the course of a week. A microcosm of affluent, averagely bored white Americans. The rest is a bit comedy and a bit dark, Aperol Spritz galore and clichés about Italy.
Perched on a rock high above the Ionian Sea, the iconic San Domenico Palace welcomes guests to a 14th-century convent palazzo. You can swim in a cliff top infinity pool, stroll in magnificent Italian gardens, soak in the history, savour Michelin-starred dining Principe Cerami and escape into a Four Seasons world of timeless beauty. A former Dominican monastery overlooking the Ionian Sea on one side and Mount Etna on the other, transformed into a hotel in 1896 and recently restored by the Four Seasons chain. It also served as a fashionable place to see and be seen for the film and theatre world; with even back then Americans arrived in droves.
After World War II, San Domenico Palace became a meeting place for intellectuals such as Henry Miller, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. Hidden behind the pseudonym of Miss Harriet Brown, Greta Garbo visited San Domenico Place incognito, while she stayed at a nearby villa for 29 years of holidays in Taormina. Other movie stars came to the hotel hoping to meet Garbo, including Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich – but she denied their every approach. Countless starlets were drawn by the hotel’s magical social whirlwind, among them Ingrid Bergman, Maria Callas, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani. The early 1960s brought visits by Audrey Hepburn and England’s Princess Margaret. The most famous cinematic couple of the era, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, came to San Domenico Palace for a romantic escape after meeting during the filming of Cleopatra in 1963. The two returned in 1967 and had a furious argument on the terrace of their suite. Today, opulent tourists from all over the world queue up at an average cost of 2,500 euros a night to stay at the San Domenico Palace in Taormina.
Triggered by the popularity of the White Lotus HBO TV series, the entire town of Taormina and surroundings have felt the impact - both positive and negative. "They have been intense months: from the end of January to May of last year», says Gabriele Zuccaro of the La Badia restaurant, the culinary headquarters of the staff. "Not even the G7 had brought us such a comeback imagined". The Americans are arriving, but not only. And positive impacts also for the surrounding areas, such as Cefalù; as it was the fictional beach in the TV series. But also towns such as Noto and Palermo where a lot of the scenes were filmed. There are White Lotus tours abound on the web, while on Airbnb, staying one night at Villa Tasca, the set of the third episode, costs 5,500 euros. Now even Bernard Arnault – the richest man in the world – has discovered Taormina and bought the other historic hotel (the Timeo), opened the Dior store and soon the Louis Vuitton one with 36,000 square meters of luxury.