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'Hotel Portofino' Recap: Season 2 Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
Lucian stands in a suit in front of a a wall of plates and jugs
Lucian returns to Hotel Portofino, without his new wife. Credit: Eagle Eye Drama

Hotel Portofino airs Sundays at 7:00 pm. WTTW Passport members can stream the whole show now. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Another summer in Italy approaches, and no wonder Brits flock to Hotel Portofino for some time beside the sunny, blue sea: everything we see of England is dreary. It’s pouring rain as Lucian leaves his new wife Rose to return to Portofino and help his mother with some renovations to the hotel, given his architectural training. His job is gloomy and dull, as is his marriage: he and Rose have yet to share a bed in their five months of marriage, and she claims she is too unwell to travel with him back to Italy. 

It’s raining as Rose’s mother Julia and Lucian’s father Cecil share a bed in Cecil’s chambers. Julia reports on their children’s marriage to Cecil, courtesy of updates from the maid she gave Rose. Cecil has no intention of summering in Italy with his wife Bella at her hotel. He has gotten into a new line of business as a middleman shipping 200 gallons of whiskey a month. His brother Edmund surmises there is something shady about the whole thing. Prohibition is on in America, after all. 

In the buzz of having new spa facilities constructed, Bella has forgotten to tell anyone that Lucian is coming. Lucian’s onetime lover Constance is thus surprised, and barely says a word to him when she and the porter Billy pick him up at the train station. Lucian’s other one-time lover, the maid Paola, also ignores him.

Constance is now an assistant manager at the hotel, and Bella is training her. Constance is taking classes in bookkeeping and trying to learn Italian. Lucian’s sister Alice has sent her daughter Lottie to stay with her in-laws, so Constance no longer needs to watch over Lottie and has time for other tasks. 

Alice is annoyed by Constance and the attention Bella is paying her. Bella assures Alice that Constance will not replace Alice at the hotel when Alice goes away for a holiday in the South of France: she has been invited to a house party there. 

Lucian feels a bit amiss at the hotel. He’s alone, his marriage is troubled, his old rooms have been handed over to guests so that Bella could convert a suite into a gathering place for young people. (Alice has also ceded her rooms, and is living in Cecil’s old chambers.) Lucian is at least eager to contribute a painting to the front lobby, as promised by his mother. 

Lucian tells his mother that his marriage is a disaster. Rose is terrified of sleeping with him, and cries and gets migraines often. Bella suggests having Julia talk to Rose, but that does happen while Lucian is away and it goes badly. Rose says she feels stifled, and Julia simply scoffs at any of Rose’s excuses. 

Eager for companionship, Lucian writes to his old friend, Anish, asking him to come visit him at the hotel. Anish is in Turin with his revolutionary lover, Gianluca, who is envious of the letter, knowing that Anish was in love with Lucian. Anish tells Gianluca he won’t leave, but he is becoming increasingly nervous about Gianluca’s activities. Some men protesting against the government have been killed. And now Gianluca is planning an attack on a well-known Fascist. If a grenade doesn’t kill him, they will resort to a gun.

Politics continues to infect more and more things in Italy. Count Albani is back at the hotel, despite having been rejected by Alice in his offer of marriage. (That hasn’t stopped her from wearing the bracelet he gave her.) He tells Lucian that he and his son Roberto have argued over politics, so Roberto is not there.

Count Albani has some intelligence for Bella. He has heard from a friend in the foreign ministry that visas have been granted to inspectors for the Green travel guide, who are especially interested in hotels catering to Brits. Bella warns her staff, and they all start to look out for guests with notebooks in an attempt to identify an inspector. 

Betty, the cook, wants more staff, but after the two-timing of the butler Francesco last summer, Bella is afraid to trust anyone new. Betty also has complaints about the construction being done on the hotel, as the dusty workers keep traipsing past her kitchen. 

Bella admires Marco, the architect in charge of adding spa facilities to the hotel, and the feeling is mutual. But his latest estimate is out of Bella’s budget, so she proposes pausing work until she can come up with the money. Marco doesn’t have other clients as interested in design as he, so he offers to work without pay for a bit, but Bella refuses. She’ll see what she can do.

She’s not short of guests. The American Claudine Pascal is filming a movie in the South of France, but shooting keeps getting interrupted by paparazzi eager to document her with the co-star with whom gossip columns believe she is having a fling, despite his engagement. She calls Bella and asks for help. Claudine may be returning to Hotel Portofino for another summer.

Constance’s mother may not last another summer. She writes to her friend Betty that her health is failing. 

Alice has written a letter to her father back in England, trying to get him to come to Italy by pretending to be attracted to the “dishy” construction workers at the hotel. But someone else has more success in getting Cecil to Italy. His old enemy turned conspirator Danioni calls him so much that Cecil can’t ignore him. Their American business partners want to meet with Cecil. They have taken over a casino near Portofino, and want Cecil to come down and see them there.

When Julia next barges into Cecil’s rooms to visit him, his manservant says that Cecil is gone, and told him only that he would see him again in September. 

Bella wanted Constance to accompany Alice to the train station as she sets off for France, so that Constance could learn the route to the bank to deposit the hotel’s money, but Alice insists that Bella come with her. At the station, Cecil is waiting for Bella.