EPCOT ITALY PAVILION: Hidden Secrets and History Revealed

Without a doubt one of the most visited pavilions in Epcot’s World Showcase is the beloved Italy Pavilion. This destination is so popular in the real world that it was named Travel+ Leisure’s 2021 Destination of the year.

Even I have made the journey across the sea to experience the beauty that is Italy. A true inspiration to the pavilion at Epcot.

But what is it about this pavilion specifically that makes it among the most popular of the World Showcase pavilions?

Is it the dining or the shopping? Or maybe it’s the excellent recreations of icons in the pavilion such as the Venetian waterways and bell tower?

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Italy Pavilion at Epcot Lady and the Tramp Topiary

Today, we will be breaking down the following as we explore a s learn more about Epcot Italy Pavilion:

  • History
  • Dining
  • Shopping

History of Epcot Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion opened with the park on October 1, 1982 as one of the original 9 pavilions. The pavilion wasn’t officially dedicated until October 14, 1982.

The pavilion is a melting pot of Venetian, Roman and Florentine architecture and icons. It features smaller versions of Italian works in a plaza such as the St Mark’s Campanile Bell Tower and the Doge’s palace.

Italy Neptune Fountain
Neptune Fountain Inspiration in Italy

The Neptune fountain is to be reminiscent of the trevi fountain in Rome as seen in the Lizzie McGuire Movie.

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Epcot Italy Pavilion Design

The pavilion has controlled gardens all about as well as kumquat and olive trees and grapevines. It’s also interesting to note that the statues on the Doge’s Palace are hollow and held by steel rods.

Italy Pavilion in Epcot Theme Park
Epcot

The entrance to the pavilion are two columns, one being a winged lion, the symbol of Venice and its guardian. Another is St. Theodore, a military figure who played an extremely important role in Venetian history.

The pavilion itself is the Imagineer’s interpretation of St. Mark’s Sqaure in Venice. In fact, the marble used for the Doge’s Palace isn’t marble at all, but in fact fiberglass.

Italy Venice Rialto Gondola
Venice, Italy

It’s virtually impossible to find that exact marble. So they used fiberglass over the brick supports and painted it to look similar.

Rides and Attractions that Never Happened

There were always plans to expand the pavilion that never came to fruition. This left a wall with nothing behind it towards the back of the pavilion where Via Napoli stands today.

Phase 2 as it was called was to feature a Gondola dark ride and a Roman ruins walk through. It was eventually dropped and the pavilion, up until Via Napoli opened in 2010, was left incomplete.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Concept Art Photo Cred RetroWDW
Italy Pavilion Concept Art Photo Cred RetroWDW

Via Napoli itself is a masterpiece which we will dive into later in this article.

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Dining in Epcot Italy Pavilion

Italy is one of the go to pavilions for a truly authentic experience of the culture. There is Via Napoli, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, Tutto Italia and the Italian Gelato kiosk, all serving up amazing selections and different varieties of the Italian food and beverage culture.

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in Italy Pavilion at Epcot Charcuterie Board with meatballs olives and Italian margarita
Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Personally I have tried a limoncello and dined at Via Napoli with family.

It’s important to note that Walt Disney World asks that Guests have a park ticket , park reservation and dining reservation to be served.

Guests must also wear masks unless they are eating and drinking in the establishment. They are also utilizing contactless payment as well.

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Via Napoli

Let’s begin with the popular favorite amongst Disney fans, Via Napoli. This restaurant opened in 2010 under the ownership of the Pantina Restaurant group and thanks to them, the pavilion finally was completed with this addition.

The restaurant serves up authentic vibes and food as an Italian pizzeria., designed by Florentine artisans Stefano Nardini and Raffaella Melucci.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Via Napoli Pizzeria Ristorante Entrance

They did a fantastic job bringing the Florentine architecture to life with the restaurant featuring an open kitchen and prep area. This allows you to get a great view of their food being freshly made in one of their trio of huge stone ovens.

What to Expect at Via Napoli

These wood burning ovens pay tribute to Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvio , the 3 active volcanoes of Italy and all were sculpted to look like the face of the god they represent.

They stay in touch with tradition of authenticity by making their Neapolitan dishes with water transported from Pennsylvania to simulate the Neapolitan style pizza dough.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Neptune God Statue

Other feature include its spectacular and awe inspiring vaulted ceilings, long communal table on the center of the room that was hand crafted in Florence, windows that give off lots of natural lighting, and imported ceramics with blown glass. It’s truly a sight to see.

If you’re in a hurry, you can get a quick slice from the Pizza window! You can dine on 3 different types of pizza, along with alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages.

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Tutto Italia Ristorante

Next up, Tutto Italia is a traditional italian trattoria that serves up truly scrumptious and delectable dishes from lasagna to cannoli(my favorite dessert!)

Italy Pavilion Tutto Gusto Meatballs in Epcot
Italy Pavilion Tutto Gusto Meatballs in Epcot

It is available for lunch and dinner and known for its gorgeous wall murals and dark wood booths as well as frescos and a Carrara marble piazza. This full service restaurant is truly immersive in its experience and perfect for a date if you’re looking to impress.

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Connected to Tutto Italia is Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, a true call to the beauty, culture and history of Italy. This establishment serves up beers, wines, sandwiches, small plates, cheeses, pastas, seafood and more!

Lounge area of Tutto Gusto Epcot

This is another wonderful place for a date night but as it’s supposed to be a reproduction of a traditional wine cellar, it is very cozy and only seats 96 people.

But with its brick arches, stone walls and floors and wooden beams, it’s worth trying out. Most importantly, you have a wide selection of Italian wines to choose from, over 200 in fact!

Small Kiosks

Now if you are just passing through on your journey around the world. There is a small cart that gives guests a choice of Italian pastries, wines and margaritas.

Italy Venice Rialto at Epcot with white wine

I would recommend grabbing the limoncello from here and getting a quick picture with it in front of the Neptune fountain.

Shopping  in the Italy Pavilion

This pavilion is fantastic for shopping, especially if you’re into perfumes, leather goods or cookbooks. There are four shops which are named:

  • IL Bella Cristallo (a favorite with guests)
  • La Bottega Italiana
  • Enoteca Castello
  • La Gemma Elegante

Il Bella Cristallo is an fabulous shop that features Antica Murrina jewelry , Ferrari merchandise, Italian perfumes, Pulicati leather handbags and the highly coveted San Lorenzo Venetian Glass jewelry.

Wine Shop in the Plaza at Italy Pavilion in Epcot

They also have stunning, handcrafted Venetian masks as well as Murano glassware and porcelain figures.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Wine Shop in Epcot

Cookbooks with recipes sporting from Rome, Naples, Florence,  entice and more along with fine chocolates , espresso coffee and Italian treats and wines can be yours to take home as you explore these adorable shops.

And of course, there are Disney merchandise with Italian flair!

Walt Disney World Ticket Ad

Overall

The beauty of Italy pavilion truly only scratches the surface of the real thing but it is an excellent reproduction of the country and all it has to offer.

From the food to the shopping, there is enough for everyone to explore. I would recommend taking a moment to stroll the pavilion and take in the details.

Lady in the Tramp Topiary in Epcot

Imagineers truly put a lot into the work and it is a a wonderful pavilion full of appreciation for the culture and arts it represents.

I would also recommend getting a table at Tutto Gusto and sampling some of the yummy Italian wines as well as taking a stroll over towards the Venetian bridges and taking in the views of Epcot.

Italy Pavilion at Epcot Garden

It’s very romantic and peaceful, especially with its patio garden styles flowers and plants .

There is a reason this pavilion is one of the most popular in World Showcase and, according to Travel+Leisure, the number one travel destination of the year is Italy.

Italy Pavilion in Epcot Theme Park

What is your favorite thing to do at Italy pavilion? Let us know in the comments.

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

About the Author

Victoria Wade Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.

She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.

She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.

UP NEXT: Why You MUST Visit the Canada Pavilion at Epcot

(Original Article Date: March 21, 2021/Updated by Editor August 16, 2021)

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