Sicily: on the roots of the White Lotus

The White Lotus is an American black comedy-drama anthology television series created by Mike White for HBO. It follows the guests and employees of the fictional White Lotus resort chain whose stay is affected by their various psychosocial dysfunctions.

The first season is set in Hawaii and the second season is set in Sicily.

Intended as a six-part limited seriesThe White Lotus premiered on July 11, 2021, to critical acclaim and high ratings. The show’s success led to HBO renewing it as an anthology series; a second season premiered on October 30, 2022.

In November 2022, the series was renewed for a third season.


Title: Ciao

Several guests at the White Lotus in Taormina, Sicily, are found to have died at a nearby beach. A week earlier, a group of guests arrives at the White Lotus, greeted by its short-tempered manager Valentina. Among them is Tanya, who is now married to Greg, though their relationship has begun to strain. Greg is angered to learn that Tanya brought along her young assistant Portia to a romantic getaway; to appease him while still retaining Portia’s services, Tanya orders Portia to stay in her room to remain out of sight. An upset Portia later meets and bonds with Albie Di Grasso, a recent Stanford graduate who is exploring his ancestral roots in Sicily alongside his father Dominic – a Hollywood producer whose marriage is failing due to his numerous infidelities – and womanizing grandfather Bert. Meanwhile, married couple Ethan and Harper Spiller join Ethan’s brash college roommate Cameron Sullivan and his wife Daphne on a trip to Sicily. Harper is quickly put off by Cameron and Daphne, believing their constant displays of affection to be insincere. Cameron exposes himself to Harper while changing into his swimming trunks. Ethan brushes off Harper’s concerns and says Cameron probably didn’t realize she could see him. Lucia, a local sex worker, sneaks into the resort with her friend Mia, and goes to meet her latest client,

The hotel beach that features at the beginning and end of season two is not actually in Taormina but in Cefalù, on the other side of the island bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea. The architecture in this part of the island’s north coast dates back to medieval times, and visitors here come to see the Norman cathedral as well as to stay at the popular beach resort. Most of the scenes filmed here for The White Lotus took place along the seafront by the Sea Palace Hotel, on Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina.

Title: Italian Dream

Dominic sets up Lucia and Mia at the hotel as his guests. Portia joins the Di Grasso family on a visit to the ancient Theatre of Taormina, where Bert continues to make inappropriate conversation. Albie and Portia discuss their romantic preferences over dinner, and Portia later violates her non-disclosure agreement with Tanya by divulging sordid details of Tanya’s past to Albie. Albie awkwardly kisses Portia at the end of their night. Bert, meanwhile, chastises Dominic for being “sloppy” in how he conducts his extramarital affairs. Dominic later explains to Lucia that he wants to overcome his sex addiction, but relents when she and Mia offer to “thank” him for letting them enjoy the hotel’s amenities on his tab. Ethan and Harper struggle to build sexual chemistry while on the trip, in contrast to Cameron and Daphne. Cameron makes another pass at Harper while swimming. Harper later apologizes to Ethan for being a “shrew” and promises to enjoy their trip. Greg tells Tanya he has to fly back to Denver for work. She later overhears him on the phone with his possible lover.

Title: Bull Elephants

Bert tells Dominic he spotted Lucia and Mia leaving his room; Dominic, feeling guilty and ashamed, severs ties with Lucia. Albie tries to impress Portia on a day trip with his family, but Tanya calls her away; she is very upset about Greg’s departure and needs Portia’s support. Tanya consults a tarot reader, who tells her that Greg is in love with someone else. That evening, Albie attempts to be more sexually forward with Portia, but she finds herself instead attracted to a British man she spots at the hotel pool. Daphne and Harper visit Noto while Cameron and Ethan spend the day jetskiing. Daphne has secretly rented a palazzo in Noto for one night, where she tells Harper that although she is aware of Cameron’s infidelity, she chooses not to see herself as a victim. She also insinuates that Cameron’s business partners are engaged in criminal activity. Disappointed that Ethan did not give him any insider trading tips, Cameron attempts to persuade Ethan to invest in his company. They spend the night drinking, taking MDMA and partying with Lucia and Mia; Cameron has sex with Lucia, but Ethan turns down Mia.

Title: In the Sandbox

Cameron does not pay Lucia and Mia in full. Harper and Daphne return from Noto. When Harper presses Ethan about last night, he admits only to getting drunk, concealing Cameron’s infidelity. Harper is shocked to discover a condom wrapper in their room but spends the day fuming about it rather than confronting Ethan. Tanya is befriended by Quentin, a wealthy British gay man who lives in Palermo. He introduces her to his friends and she has a great time. Portia meets his nephew Jack, whom she had earlier spotted at the pool, and they hit it off. Albie, meanwhile, meets Lucia while waiting for Portia. Unaware that she is a sex worker who slept with his father, they get on well. While Lucia is beginning to question her own life choices, Mia suddenly decides to have sex with Giuseppe in order to further her musical career, ignoring Lucia’s attempts to dissuade her. This backfires when Giuseppe, unable to perform sexually, takes some pills thinking they are Viagra. He later collapses during his evening gig and is taken away in an ambulance. Shortly after Jack and Portia leave the bar to sleep together, Albie and Lucia go back to his room, where she performs oral sex on him.

Title: That’s Amore

Ethan finally comes clean with Harper after discovering the condom wrapper; she grudgingly accepts his apology. The two couples go on a wine-tasting trip on which an increasingly drunk Harper drops various hints that she knows about what happened. Ethan accuses Cameron of “mimetic desire” for his habit of seducing every woman Ethan was interested in at college. Throughout the day Harper continually undermines and embarrasses Ethan. Later at dinner, Cameron puts his hand on Harper’s leg under the table. Albie is surprised when Lucia asks for payment for the previous night’s sex. Dominic attempts to dissuade Albie and Lucia from seeing each other, but Albie seems to have fallen for her. Lucia is accosted by a man named Alessio, to whom she claims she owes money. Albie and Lucia again spend the night together. Discerning that Valentina is gay, Mia offers her sexual favors in exchange for Giuseppe’s piano gig until he recovers. Tanya and Portia visit Palermo with Quentin and his friends. Quentin accompanies Tanya to a performance of Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Massimo. Meanwhile Jack and Portia explore the town, doing a dine and dash after sampling the arancine at a local restaurant. Tanya is later shocked to discover Jack having sex with his “uncle”, Quentin.

Title: Abductions

Ethan and Harper discuss their mutual lack of attraction, with Harper asking Ethan if he still desires her. After later seeing Harper interacting with Cameron on the beach, Ethan becomes increasingly suspicious that Harper is cheating on him with Cameron. The Di Grassos go to visit the home of their apparent blood relatives. Albie brings Lucia along as a translator, but Alessio follows them; Lucia eventually agrees to accompany him, against the Di Grassos’ protests. The Di Grassos arrive at their ancestral village and locate a Di Grasso family there, whom they visit unannounced. The remaining family members are three women of different generations, who angrily turn them away. Bert is despondent, having hoped for a happier family reunion. Lucia returns to the hotel that night and tells Albie that she can only leave Alessio once she pays him the money she owes. Valentina enjoys her first lesbian tryst with Mia, after Isabella, a concierge with whom Valentina has been infatuated, reveals her engagement to fellow concierge Rocco, whom Valentina had reassigned to the beach club to get closer to Isabella. Tanya hints to Portia that Jack may not be Quentin’s nephew. Quentin sets up Tanya with his cocaine dealer, Niccoló; before they have sex, Tanya finds a framed photo of Quentin with a man, possibly Greg, when they were younger. A drunken Jack admits to Portia that Quentin and his friends have spent all their money on their luxuries, and cryptically implies that Quentin rescued him from dire circumstances in exchange for sex.

Title: Arrivederci

Harper admits to Ethan that Cameron kissed her. He furiously attacks Cameron, nearly drowning him before a bystander intervenes. Ethan shares his suspicions with Daphne, who repeats the advice she gave Harper, to do whatever makes him feel better; she then invites him to join her on a walk to a nearby island, possibly to have sex. An invigorated Ethan later has sex with Harper, reigniting the passion in their marriage. Albie convinces Dominic to wire €50,000 to Lucia to save her from Alessio, in exchange for Albie’s help in salvaging Dominic’s marriage. Lucia quietly leaves Albie and celebrates her successful scam with Mia and Alessio. Valentina restores Rocco to reception, at Isabella’s request, and hires Mia as the resort’s new piano player, angering Giuseppe. Portia wakes up and finds that her phone is missing. She takes Jack’s phone and calls Tanya, alerting her that something is wrong. Tanya suspects that Greg hired Quentin and his associates to kill her so that he can inherit her fortune. Panicking, she retrieves Niccolo’s gun and kills him, Quentin, and Didier. While attempting to board a dinghy to escape, she slips, hits her head, and drowns. Her body washes up to shore the next day and is discovered by Daphne, and the other bodies on the yacht are found soon after. Portia confronts Jack about his relationship with Quentin; he angrily drives off, eventually dropping her off near Catania–Fontanarossa Airport and warning her not to return to the White Lotus for her own safety. Albie and Portia reunite at the airport.

What About: White Lotus Tour of Sicily