The Four Seasons properties in Hawaii and Italy are very different, but at both, luxury experiences and dining are unsurpassed.
If you were among the millions who watched season one of the HBO series White Lotus, you’ve seen much of the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea, the gorgeous tropical backdrop for the complicated (to put in kindly) and troubled vacationers whose week ended, let’s just say, not so well. Luckily, my recent visit to the same resort went quite differently.
In a happy coincidence, planned well before the location for the series’ second season was announced, I spent several days at the San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel in Taormina, Sicily, the setting for White Lotus season two. The plush, new hotel on a historic property is stunning, and my lovely summer visit there was less eventful than what we can expect from the show between now and the Dec. 11 finale.
Season one showcased the Maui resort — the spa, infinity pool, cabanas, restaurants, beach, glowing torches at sunset, and the expansive suites. On a tour of the property, I visited the suites, no longer the Palm, Hibiscus, and Pineapple of White Lotus, now restored to tasteful, neutral shades and natural materials, but with the same blue ocean views and outdoor lanais. I recognized the spa from the show, but my massage took place in a beachside hale, accompanied by ocean breezes and the sound of crashing waves.
Perhaps a visit to the hotel’s Next Health center for a Stress Relief IV or a "Hangover Cure" may have benefitted the White Lotus guests. Or an evening with “Hawaiian Star Stories,” learning about the centuries-old way of navigating by the stars to take their minds off their issues. I was glad to see one of the young White Lotus guests enjoyed the morning outrigger canoe experience as I did.
Looking out for my favorite restaurants as I watched the series, I spotted Duo Steak & Seafood, the place for al fresco dinners and the sumptuous breakfast buffet. Another scene was set in the romantic oceanfront Ferraro’s Bar E Ristorante. Spago, where we had an excellent sunset dinner, made an appearance as well.
Several months earlier and halfway around the world, my summer vacation took me to Sicily and a stay at San Domenico Palace in the hilltop resort city of Taormina. Overlooking the Ionian Sea and Ancient Greek theater with Mount Etna in the distance, this glamorous hotel blends its historic past with every modern comfort. Once a 14th-century convent and home to an order of friars whose cells have been converted to guest rooms, the building’s past is evident throughout. We toured with the hotel’s historian, who pointed out frescoes, antiques, and centuries-old sections of the original monastery.
The White Lotus Sicily’s guests will undoubtedly occupy one of the hotel’s large suites with an expansive furnished terrace and plunge pool. We will probably see them around the infinity pool with its pretty gray and white umbrellas, and I hope they’ll also head over to Anciovi, as we did, for one of the best lunches we ever had—caponata, lobster linguine, eggplant parmigiana, and an excellent Sicilian Grillo.
San Domenico Palace has entertained kings, writers, and celebrities including Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Greta Garbo, and many others. The cast of White Lotus will include new faces and familiar names like Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame and F. Murray Abraham, along with the return of Jennifer Coolidge as the depressingly neurotic Tanya McQuoid.
While the pool, courtyard, restaurants, cocktail lounges, and gardens of San Domenico palace are charming settings for the season two action, I hope the vacationers will venture out and get to know Taormina’s medieval streets, browse the shops on Corso Umberto, and taste Italy’s best cannoli. They shouldn’t miss a visit, just a short walk from the hotel, to the Teatro Antico, where concerts and the annual International Film Festival are held.
I’ve looked forward to each new episode, a chance to revisit San Domenico Palace, at least vicariously. I wonder what could possibly go wrong on a vacation in such a serene place. If season one is any indication, the ill-fated guests at the White Lotus will find a way to bring drama and perhaps worse to Taormina while I enjoy happy memories of a perfect summer vacation.
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