EPCOT ITALY PAVILION: Hidden Secrets and History Revealed in World Showcase!

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?

Italy Pavilion Square in Epcot World Showcase.

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History of the 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.

Italy Pavilion at Epcot Lady and the Tramp Topiary

The pavilion is a mixture 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 designed to evoke the charm of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, as showcased in the Lizzie McGuire Movie.

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Epcot Italy Pavilion Design

The pavilion features meticulously maintained gardens, along with kumquat and olive trees, as well as grapevines inspired by this beautiful country.

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

When you enter the Italy Pavilion you’ll notice two columns, one being a winged lion, the symbol of Venice and its guardian.

2023 Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney Italy Pavilion.

Another significant figure is St. Theodore, who had a pivotal role in Venetian history as a military leader.

I love how the pavilion is the Disney Imagineer’s interpretation of St. Mark’s Sqaure in Venice. It is important to note that the material used for the Doges Palace is not actually marble, but rather fiberglass.

Italy Venice Rialto Gondola
Venice, Italy

It is nearly impossible to locate the exact marble, so they opted to use fiberglass over the brick supports and then painted it to achieve a similar appearance.

Rides and Attractions that Never Happened in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot

In case you didn’t know, Disney always plans to grow the pavilion. This resulted in an empty wall at the rear of the pavilion, where Via Napoli is now located.

Phase 2, also known as the next stage, was planned to include a Gondola dark ride and a walk through Roman ruins.

However, this plan was later abandoned, leaving the pavilion incomplete until the opening of Via Napoli in 2010.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Concept Art Photo Cred RetroWDW
Italy Pavilion Concept Art Photo Courtesy of 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 (if applicable) and dining reservation to be served.

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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.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Via Napoli Pizzeria Ristorante Entrance

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

They did a fantastic job bringing the Florentine architecture to life with the restaurant featuring an open kitchen and prep area.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Via Napoli Pizzeria Ristorante and Pizza at Talio Menu Limoncello and Bellini

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-fired ovens are designed to honor Italy’s three active volcanoes – Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvio. Each oven is intricately crafted to resemble the face of the deity it represents.

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 notable features comprise its breathtaking vaulted ceilings and a handcrafted communal table from Florence placed at the center of the room.

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There are also windows that give off lots of natural lighting, and imported ceramics with blown glass. It’s truly a sight to see.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Via Napoli Pizzeria Ristorante

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.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto Restaurant Wine Cellar (2)

This full service restaurant is truly immersive in its experience and perfect for a date if you’re looking to impress.

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Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Connected to Tutto Italia is Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, a true call to the beauty, culture and history of Italy.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto Restaurant Wine Cellar

This establishment serves up beers, wines, sandwiches, small plates, cheeses, pastas, seafood and more!

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.

Lounge area of Tutto Gusto Epcot

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!

2023 Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney Italy Pavilion Gelateria Toscana Menu Coppa Amarena

Hipster Power Tip: Don’t forget to grab a delicious and sweet treat at Gelateria Toscana!

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.

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Shopping in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot

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

Explore charming shops offering cookbooks filled with recipes from Rome, Naples, Florence, and beyond, as well as exquisite chocolates, espresso coffee, Italian delicacies, and wines to take home.

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

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My Final Thoughts on Exploring the Italy Pavilion in Epcot

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.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival 2023 Italy Pavilion relaxing area

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.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney Italy Pavilion

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

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

Victoria Wade Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

About the Author

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 on June 1, 2024))

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