I spent a Christmas at White Lotus Taormina – 12/21/2022 – Zeca Camargo

Like series? So I’m sure you’re still under the shock of the season two finale of “The White Lotus” on HBO Max. I loved everything too, but I had one more reason for that: I spent a Christmas in that setting.

I’m not just referring to the stupendous city that is Taormina, but also to the very hotel where fictional guests go crazy little by little, the San Domenico, then renamed The White Lotus.

I was there in 1998 and, from the images I see now, that was before a beautiful upgrade that the Four Seasons hotel chain gave to the former 14th-century convent. Certainly before they charged around R$5,000 a night for a room.

It took me a while to recognize the San Domenico in “White Lotus”. I knew, of course, that the second season’s location, after opening in Hawaii, would be Sicily, Italy. But he wasn’t quite sure where.

When I saw those luxurious rooms that received, among others, an uncompensated millionaire, two very wealthy couples from the “millennial generation” and three generations of Californians in heat and with a lot of money to spend on prostitutes, I was surprised.

My accommodations that December 1998 were more in keeping with the spartan style of the original convent than five-star luxury. Even so, I stayed comfortably, happy not only with the hotel, but also with the chance to spend Christmas in that city.

Taormina is one of those cities small enough to explore on foot. A car always helps anyone who wants to go further, say on a car rental. “The Godfather” or in a private “palazzo” open to visitors, as the characters in “White Lotus” do.

But walking through those old, always crowded streets is the greatest charm of the place. From wooden Pinocchios (a curious presence, since the doll, according to the story, would have been carved in Tuscany) to luxury brands, you can’t walk ten steps through the city without seeing something interesting.

The famous Roman theatre, built in the 3rd century BC, is perhaps its most famous attraction, with its stage open to the real backdrop of that stunning coastline. But every corner of Taormina brings you a discovery; maybe even a street named after him, like Vico Zecca, which I accidentally found.

My stopover in the city was part of a kind of honeymoon in Sicily. Very well accompanied and quite passionate, I took a car in Catania, slept first in Siracusa before waking up to the view of the ancient temples in Agrigento.

From there, I cut through the middle of the island to get closer to the Etna volcano and head to Palermo, where I arrived on December 24th. Everything closed down in the city, but who was calling that on such an enchanting trip?

On Christmas Day itself, we woke up early, passed through little Cefalu for photos and arrived in Taormina for lunch. It was an ugly winter day and our room (pre-Four Seasons!) was not the most inviting.

We then descend to Isola Bella, where a mysterious house floats over the Ionian Sea. I won’t give spoilers, but something very important happens there in “White Lotus”.

That Christmas, however, all that interested me was in that place. My traveler spirit satisfied, the possibility of a life together, the feeling that I like so much of belonging to any place in the world.

More than two decades later, hordes of American tourists, real and fictional, would change that landscape forever. But I’m sure that, even today, you’ll find a passionate couple kissing there, certain that all the happiness in the world comes down to a Christmas day in Taormina.

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