As you round the World Showcase Lagoon of Epcot’s country-themed World Showcase, passing either the storybook village of Germany Pavilion or the Colonial gables of the American Adventure, you will find yourself staring up at two impressive freestanding columns. One column is topped with a statue of St. Theodore, an important military leader in Venice’s history, and the other is crowned with a winged lion, the protector of Venice. These columns are the entryway into the plaza, and Venice and Rome inspired architecture of the Epcot Italy Pavilion.
The Buildings and Attractions
To the right of the columns as you enter Italy Pavilion is a perfect copy of the Doge’s Palace that sits alongside the Venetian Lagoon in Venice, Italy. Its pink and white marble façade with arcading columns is one of the most impressive sights in that impressive city, and the reproduction at Italy Pavilion is a careful and authentic recreation, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. Next to the Doge’s Palace springs an 83-foot replica of St. Mark’s Campanile – the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. This is another of the most iconic sights from the ancient Italian city, and as with the Doge’s Palace this gorgeous structure has been recreated with minute attention to detail. The plaza at the center of the pavilion is the Plaza del Teatro where the Fontana de Nettuno sits and bubbles forth. This fountain was inspired by the famous Neptune fountain by one of Italy’s foremost Renaissance sculptors – Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Of course, the city of Venice is famous as much for its waterways as for its beautiful buildings, and if you turn away from the twin columns to face the World Showcase Lagoon, you will find yourself transported to the Venetian waterfront. On the shores of the Lagoon you will see examples of the arching Venetian bridges, gondolas, and striped barbershop poles that decorate the canals of Venice.
The Italy Pavilion is landscaped with trees, shrubs and flowers native to the temperate Mediterranean region, giving the entire area a feeling of warmth and life. Container gardens decorate the streets in front of many of the buildings, full of colorful flowers. Be sure to keep an eye out for topiaries of Lady and the Tramp, who enjoyed their own Italian adventure in the 1955 Disney animated film. The gardens also contain Mediterranean citrus, olive trees and other trees native to Italy’s fertile landscape. Outdoor seating on benches or café tables line the walls of Italy Pavilion; walls over which branches hang and vines grow, seeming to hint a lush country extending far beyond the limits of the pavilion.
The raised piazza at the center of the plaza in Italy Pavilion plays host to a variety of performances throughout the day. Clowns, musicians, and acting troupes are a few of the kinds of street performers that enliven a visit to this pavilion. Children may particularly enjoy the juggling performances by Sergio the Italian mime that wow guests five days a week, while interactive comedy troupe the Zitti Sisters will have everybody laughing. A performance by I Cantanapoli – meaning “the singers of Napoli” in Italian – is also well worth your time. This troupe of singers and musicians performs classical and contemporary Italian music and welcomes spontaneous audience participation.
Shopping Smells Really Good
Italy Pavilion does not feature one single large market or department store for souvenir purchases. Instead, a variety of small shops surround the plaza and entice visitors with their quaint and attractive storefronts. Its easy to feel that you are in the ancient and bustling streets of Venice or Rome as you dip in and out of independent shops selling everything from Florentine soaps to Italian perfume. Most people love a meal of great Italian food, and Italy Pavilion is a terrific place to shop for books on regional Italian cooking, from Tuscany to Rome to Naples. Shoppers can delight their present and future taste buds by indulging in some Illy espresso, chocolates, or Italian wine. A visit to Il Bel Cristallo in the Doge’s Palace replica is something you have to experience, if only to window shop. This store is absolutely brimming with beautiful things, from fine Pulicati leather handbags to San Lorenzo Venetian glass jewelry. Other luxury Italian items such as Antica Murrina jewelry, crystal, Murano glassware, Ferrari swag and genuine Italian perfumes can be found here.
Eating – An Italian Pastime
Understandably, eating is a popular activity among visitors to the Epcot Italy Pavilion! This pavilion has two full restaurants where guests can enjoy a formal lunch or dinner, and two informal eateries that serve delicious snacks and treats. Whether you just want to grab a box of creamy Italian chocolates to enjoy as you stroll, or want the full experience from antipasti to tiramisu, Italy Pavilion has just what your taste buds are looking for.
Delizie Italian is a store that sells Italian chocolate and candies, as well as Italian snacks. Select from the enticing bins of small, colorful candies, or try a world famous Perugina chocolate bar in its elegant blue and silver wrapping. La Bottega Italiana is a shop that carries a variety of Italian goods, and is a wonderful place to pick up some Italian chocolate or wine.
Tutto Italia is a wonderful stop for casual dining, Italian-style. The lamp-lit outdoor patio facing out onto the plaza, and the large indoor dining room decorated with murals and chandeliers give style and elegance to this casual dining experience. You can stroll in off the street in your tennis shoes and sensible walking attire, while still enjoying a sense of Old World glamour and excellent food. From the handmade mozzarella and pasta to the freshly baked bread, Tutto Italia is a surefire hit.
The other full-course restaurant at Italy Pavilion is the Italian pizzeria Via Napoli. This is a table-service pizzeria, where guests will have their stone-fired pizzas delivered to their table in style. The kitchen and prep area at Via Napoli is open, so diners can enjoy the sight of pizza dough flying and pizzas browning and bubbling in the enormous stone pizza ovens. For those who choose to branch out from pizza, this restaurant also serves pasta and salads, along with a full menu of appetizers and enticing desserts.
Take a moment in your World Showcase exploration to wander the streets of Old Italy, or spend hours enjoying the magnificent architecture, listening to the flow of the Fontana de Nettuno from a garden bench, and enjoying the sweet and savory tastes of a country famous for its culinary creations. It’s well worth your time!