If you are alive, awake, and on the internet (or at least know a netizen who is), chances are you’ve heard of HBO’s The White Lotus television series. Two seasons of the anthology show have been released so far (the first in 2021, the second in 2022), and each focuses on the very wealthy but highly neurotic guests who visit the fictional White Lotus hotels, and the equally zany staff who keep the whole shebang running. But the stunning real-life settings where The White Lotus is filmed? They steal almost every scene.
While the first season was shot in Hawai‘i, the second season moved abroad to Sicily, where it follows a fateful week filled with infidelity, villainous schemes, and murder. Throughout all the drama and intrigue, characters spend time lounging on the beach, venturing outside the hotel walls, and even sailing on a murderer’s yacht. The locales may vary, but the thread that connects them is obvious—they’re all gorgeous. Their appearances on The White Lotus sparked an almost immediate “set-jetting” trend (where travelers go to destinations specifically to visit filming locations).
For your next Italian getaway, here are five White Lotus filming locations that you can visit, including a couple of ancient villas and one of the most eye-catching hotels in Sicily:
1. San Domenico Palace
The hotel that served as this season’s sumptuous White Lotus digs was actually the San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel (the first season was also filmed at a Four Seasons, the Resort Maui at Wailea). Originally constructed in the 15th century as a monastery, the San Domenico Palace is situated on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea and offers views of Mount Etna and the Greek theater. In 1896, the convent was transformed into a luxury hotel that later saw Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, and Audrey Hepburn as guests.
Today, the hotel counts 111 suites (some are converted monk cells), two bars, an outdoor infinity pool, and courtyards and gardens that date back to when monks still roamed the grounds. The interiors of the San Domenico were designed by celebrated Naples-based architect Valentina Pisani—visitors can expect smoked mirrors, lots of marble surfaces, bronze detailing, and both historic and contemporary art. Recommended activity: Grab one of the hotel’s signature cocktails and lounge by the pool next to your can’t-be-bothered husband with a scarf tied around your hair while pretending to be Monica Vitti.
2. Cefalù Beach
Every season of The White Lotus begins with a death. This time around, Daphne (Meghann Fahy) finds a body floating in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean in the first episode. Though the hotel scenes were shot at San Domenico Palace, the hotel beach scenes were not filmed there but rather at Sicily’s famed Cefalù Beach, with its Norman Cathedral often peeking out in the background. Cefalù, a northern Sicilian coastal town, is located about a 2.5-hour drive from Taormina and is famous for its sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and ancient palazzos and temples, including one dedicated to the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana.
3. Villa Elena
This gorgeous property served as the home (and metaphorical albatross) of the scheming Quentin (Tom Hollander), and it nearly overshadowed the characters in every scene with its colorful paintings, frescoes, busts, and antiques. In the show, Quentin tells hapless heiress Tanya (the award-winning Jennifer Coolidge) that he inherited the grand estate from his father, and when Tanya arrives at the villa and sees the lavishness of its interiors she fatefully remarks, “Oh, my God. You must have dumped a fortune into this place.”
In reality, Villa Elena is currently owned by French interior designer Jacques Garcia, who did indeed dump considerable time and cash into restoring the storied estate to its modern-day level of opulence. “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,” Garcia said in a 2019 interview with Architectural Digest. Good news for White Lotus fans: Villa Elena is available to rent for your own dastardly Italian vacation plans (price available upon request).
4. Castello degli Schiavi
In the third episode, Albie (Adam DiMarco), his father Dominic (Michael Imperioli), grandfather Bert (F. Murray Abraham), and his new friend Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) visit Castello degli Schiavi, the iconic castle that served as Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) refuge in the 1972 film The Godfather. Castello degli Schiavi, which is about 10 miles south of San Domenico Palace, was originally constructed in the 1800s and has an interesting legend associated with its name, which literally translates to “Castle of the Slaves.” In the 1700s, it’s said that a doctor from Palermo saved the Prince of Palagonia’s son and in return, the Prince gave the doctor some land. The doctor constructed a castle for himself and his wife, Rosalia, but they were soon raided and kidnapped by pirates who intended to sell them into slavery. However, they were later rescued by a group of militants led by Rosalia’s lover (in a White Lotus–like turn of events) and the two were saved. The castle was known as Castello degli Schiavi thereafter.
These days, Castello degli Schiavi is privately owned, but the property is available for tours. In real life, however, there isn’t a Godfather-themed gift shop or café located in front of the castle.
5. Villa Tasca
OK, so your husband’s best friend’s wife (who you don’t even really like) just whisked you away from your weeklong vacation and charming hotel for a surprise girls’ trip without telling you. But can you really be that mad if your accommodations for the night are the Villa Tasca? Located in sunny Palermo (on the opposite side of Sicily from Taormina), this 16th-century gem is sited in a 20-acre park dotted with citrus trees and has decked interiors featuring lively frescoes, Murano chandeliers, and majolica tiles.
However, Villa Tasca’s appearance on The White Lotus isn’t the property’s first brush with celebrity. Guests like Jacqueline Kennedy and Otto, Prince of Bismarck, have stayed at the dashing palace, and it’s said that Villa Tasca has even inspired the music of classical composers like Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. Happily, you don’t have to let your palatial Italian dreams be just dreams: the Villa Tasca is available on Airbnb for $5,900 per night.