Few TV shows and movies have lit a powder keg around pop culture travel quite like HBO’s smash hit series, The White Lotus. Out of everything that has been set and filmed in paradise—or set in one tropical destination but made in another—no production has invoked Liz Lemon’s catchphrase “I want to go to there” quite like this one, and thanks to the recently concluded second season, all eyes are reportedly on Sicily.
Specifically, people have been Googling and Asking Jeeves like crazy: Which resort did the characters stay at? The answer is the phenomenal San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel in Taormina.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Thanks, I’m going to book a room now!” Unfortunately, for starters, the hotel is closed until March 14 as the staff prepares for what will presumably be one of the biggest years in its history. And when it finally reopens, interest in this property is already sky high, which means it will be busy. Contrary to some reports, the Palace’s reps tell me it isn’t completely sold out for 2023, but it’s probably going to take a lot of praying and refreshing the booking page, unless your schedule is open the week of June 5.
In the meantime, we can all do what we do best: daydream. And San Domenico Palace makes that especially easy.
Long Before Jennifer Coolidge
Prior to becoming a hotel in 1896, San Domenico Palace was a convent, which makes the fact that a newspaper once called Taormina “Disneyland of sin” very amusing. Why did it earn that reputation? We’ll leave that to local legends; however, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that the wealthy and famous guests who have checked in for more than a century—from Baron Rothschild in its earliest days to Audrey Hepburn in the 1960s and Madonna just last year—probably treated the property and its surroundings like a playground.
The Palace has been as much a haven for some of the world’s greatest writers, including Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Henry Miller, Oscar Wilde, and D.H. Lawrence, as it has a place to be seen for glamourous stars of their times, like Sophia Loren, Joan Crawford, and Ingrid Bergman. And while it was Greta Garbo’s annual getaway for nearly 30 years, it might be better known as the place where Elizabeth Taylor El Kabong’d Richard Burton with a mandolin on their room’s terrace.
What Makes It So Amazing?
Where else would a palace exist in Italian paradise than on a promontory that offers captivating views of Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea? In fact, that’s the “Thing the Show Gets Wrong” about the setting, because there’s no way for guests to arrive by boat—the real dock is at La Cambusa at Giardini Naxos—and the beach scenes are actually filmed at Unahotels Capotaormina. Small screen embellishments aside, there’s still so much to love on-property.
All great vacations begin in the accommodations, and visitors may find it hard to leave their rooms, no matter the choice, from the 301-sq. ft. Superior Room to the 1,507-sq. ft. Royal Suite. Five is a special number here, because that’s how many types of guest rooms, suites, and specialty suites there are to choose from, and they’re all luxurious. Although, the Executive Suite with Plunge Pool might take the cake. Just leave the string instruments inside.
Guests who want to relax in the water might even prefer a dip in the hotel’s infinity pool to the sea below, because the former is where creative cocktails and delicious bites from Anciovi are enjoyed. Mornings can be spent strolling through the lush gardens before heading out to lunch at any of the town’s various restaurants, but at least one evening should be spent at the Palace’s Michelin-starred Principe Cerami, where celebrated chef Massimo Mantarro’s signature dishes leave visitors speechless.
With a location this convenient, the concierge can help schedule a car rental for exploring the landmarks and some of the other neighboring cities. Of course, a day trip to the island of Ortigia is the icing on the cake. Just don’t take too long to book or else we might learn where season three is taking place and fall in love all over again.
Could an Asian resort be in the cards? That seems to have the best odds right now.