Fabio Lovino/HBO; Peter Vitale
A fresh set of uber-rich Americans have charted a course to a White Lotus hotel for season two of the HBO hit — and this time they're bringing the drama to the picturesque Italian island of Sicily!
While the appearance of a mysterious dead body may start the season off with a bang, the show's Mediterranean setting — with crystal blue waters, stunning Old World architecture and unique volcanic terrain — is an undeniable highlight.
PEOPLE chatted with Executive Producer David Bernad to unveil all the secrets behind this season's location, including the unexpected role played by Mount Etna, the island's active volcano.
Etna served as a "visual thematic in a lot of locations," Bernad tells PEOPLE, noting that the volcano actually erupted during production. It covered the sky with ash for 24 hours and the crew hurried to capture some mesmerizing footage of the lava rolling slowly down the mountain. The clips made it into the final show as a visual metaphor for the slow-simmering tensions between the characters.
Along with being able to explore the island's volcano (when it's not erupting, of course), fans of the series can also visit the exact locations that The White Lotus called home for season two, from the real Four Seasons hotel that stood in for the titular one, to the characters' favorite winery and bar.
San Domenico Palace, A Four Seasons Hotel
The San Domenico Palace cosplays as this season's The White Lotus hotel, and it definitely checks all the boxes of a luxury accommodation. Nestled in the quaint city of Taormina, the cliffside property boasts breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. Fans can book a stay at the lavish space and channel their inner Monica Vitti from L'Avventura (which was also filmed here!) just like Jennifer Coolidge's character Tanya does. Rates start at $1,626 a night though it is currently booked through spring 2023.
"It has so much personality," Bernad says. "Taormina is this very ancient city up in the hills and you feel the history and the life that's been lived there." The building dates back to the year 1200, when it served as a monastery.
These days it offers a much more luxurious experience, including the authentic Sicilian cuisine served at Principe Cerami, poolside cocktails inspired by the island's "eclectic heritage," and a spa where you can get a volcanic basalt hot-stone massage.
Paranormal enthusiasts may be excited to hear about its alleged haunted happenings. The cast and crew claim to have encountered some otherworldly spirits while living at the Sicily hotel for several months during production. Bernad even revealed that "multiple times" during the night he would hear someone knocking at his door, only to find no one there when he opened it.
Planeta Sciaranuova Winery
Cameron (Theo James), Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Ethan (Will Sharpe) share a glass at this lush vineyard located at the foot of Mount Etna in Castiglione di Sicilia. Planeta Sciaranuova Winery offers a serene setting for delicious wine tastings spotlighting the varieties produced from the surrounding mineral-rich, volcanic soil.
Bernad tells PEOPLE how surreal it was to shoot at the scenic vineyard. "You're basically halfway up the volcano — you're very close to the summit," he says.
On days of from scouting and prepping for production, Bernad says crew members went skiing on Etna's slopes. It's even possible to hike up and inside the volcano when conditions are safe. Local tour company Etna Experience also leads hiking excursions into the volcano's lava caves.
Town of Noto
Filled with Baroque architecture, the charming town of Noto sets the scene for Daphne and Harper (Aubrey Plaza)'s girls trip. "It's so visually different from [the other Sicilian towns of] Palermo, Taormina and Cefalu," Bernad says. "It's very specific architecture and it looks very different from the rest of Sicily."
For fans who enjoy sightseeing, a trip to the Noto Cathedral or Piazza Immacolata (featured in episode three) would be ideal. It's also in close proximity to beaches like Lido di Noto and Eloro.
"Everything you'd want, it had," Bernad tells PEOPLE. "It's just a very romantic, lived-in city. I felt really charmed by Noto." The granita (Italian shaved ice) at Noto's Caffe Sicilia is the best dessert on the island, according to Bernad.
Watch The White Lotus every Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO Max.