Epcot vs reality the Italy edition explores the difference in the authenticity of Italy Pavillion at Epcot’s World Showcase.
Italy Pavilion at Epcot
Situated on the International Showcase between Germany and The American Adventure, the Italy Pavilion is visible from nearly any location on the World Showcase Lagoon. While the pavilion itself seems, perhaps, less visually stunning than many of the other pavilions with its single large, sun-filled square lined with plain walls. This open space feels a bit hodgepodge in that the spaces feel awkward.
In the center of the square is a raised area where it seems a performance would take place, but this is not where Sergio performs (he performs close to the entrance to the pavilion).
This large area seems confusing in its placement and its function, as does the fountain of Neptune, which is tucked in the back corner, along an empty wall that juts out into the square. Putting these layout issues aside though, the pavilion actually holds within its tiny space a number of significant and well-planned nods towards the country itself.
A post from – Jen at Three Kids and a Car
One of the most impressive representations of the country comes in the form of the architecture of the pavilion. Upon walking towards the Italy pavilion from the Germany pavilion, Venetian architecture surrounds. To the right, in a large area that is used often for special events (and excellent viewing of Illuminations), there are bridges making gentle arcs over a canal, connecting the World Showcase walkway with this large area next to the lagoon.
While it’s easy to just breeze past this seemingly detached area, a quick glance will see that it adds to the sense and feel of the Italy pavilion. Found moored in the canal and along the lagoon edge are a collection of brightly coloured gondolas, reminiscent of Venice.
Across the ShowCase walkway, the Italian pavilion continues to carry forward the Venetian architecture. To the left of the entrance is a small-scale replica of the Doge’s Palace, found in St. Marks Square, and directly at the entrance are two pillars upon which sit the two symbols of Venice: St. Mark’s Lion, the protector of Venice, and the statue of St. Theodore, the former patron saint to Venice prior to St. Mark. These two symbols, overlooking the water, are also visible from Venice’s St. Marks Square, where they are perched on the water, welcoming and warning.
Beyond the pink and white marble replica of the Doge’s Palace, lies the main focal point of the Italy Pavilion: the 83-foot belltower which is an authentic replica of the original Campanile in St. Mark’s Square. And, of course, in the midst of all of these Venetian callbacks is a Piazzetta, or little square, the Plaza del Teatro.
On the ground floor of the Doge’s Palace is a shop called Il Bel Cristallo shop, which is meant to resemble the exterior of the Sistine Chapel. Further into the square is the Neptune Fountain which has been said to be reminiscent of both Rome’s Trevi fountain and Bernini’s Neptune fountain, also found in Rome. And at the rear of the pavilion is Via Napoli, a restaurant featuring Neapolitan cuisine, that was designed to resemble Florentine architecture complete with archways.
The Italy Pavillion’s entertainment shoes are largely filled by Sergio, the Italian Mime, who performs in the Piazzetta throughout the day. It is interactive and, for approximately twenty minutes, pulls in quite a crowd to watch his impressive juggling skills. When he’s not performing, there is also a flag-waving show, Sbandieratori di Sansepolcro, which is performed by authentic artists from Sansepolcro, Italy.
The attractions found in the Italy pavilion are often said to be lacking when compared to other Show Case pavilions. There are no rides or movies. And an occasional character meet and greet can be had with some of the characters from Pinocchio. Generally, though, there are no real attractions at all, beyond the architecture and the entertainment.
At one time, the pavilion was to undergo a Phase II construction (which was announced publicly), that would have created the entertainment that the pavilion sorely lacks. Phase II was said to contain a ride and a walk-through of Roman ruins, but these never came to fruition.
Even though the pavilion occupies such a tiny space, there is no shortage of shopping to be had, including Il Bel Cristallo, La Bottega Italian, Enoteca Castello, and La Gemma Elegante. In addition to authentic Italian goods, the shops offer some Disney items designed exclusively for the Italy pavilion.
Il Bel Cristallo contains fine Italian goods including handbags, jewelry, clothes, perfumes, porcelain, crystal, and Murano glass to name a few items. Next to this shop is La Gemma Elegante. This is the go-to shop for Venetian Masks.
Across the Piazzetta are La Bottega Italian and Enoteca Castello. La Bottega Italian offers park goers the change to purchase Italian foods as well as cookware, drinkware, housewares’ and apparel. Next to the shop is Enoteca Castello, selling Italian wines and spirits. On the outside wall of Enoteca Castello is a coat of arms for family Banfi. This is a nod to Castello Banfi, one of the largest wineries in Tuscany. Tables are lined up outside of the shop so parkgoers can stop and enjoy their wine.
Right outside of the entrance to the Italy pavilion is a small quick-service gelato stand, Gelati, that usually has a big line, and for good reason. Inside the pavilion itself are three more restaurants: Tutto Italia Ristorante, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, and Via Napoli Pizzeria e Ristorante. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating, representing the cafe culture that exists in Italy.
One such restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating is Tutto Italia Ristorante, which offers park-goers an “Old World” taste of Italy. Murals of ancient Rome adorn the walls and the menu is comprised of dishes ranging from grilled steak to traditional Italian favourites like ravioli. A children’s menu is available.
Next to Tutto Italia is Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar. Here, patrons over 21 can snack on a variety of small-plate bar fare, plates of cheese, plates of pasta and desserts while trying some of the over 200 bottles of Italian wine available. The interior is designed to reflect a wine cellar, with stone walls, dark wooden beams, and intimate lighting.
Finally, in the back of the pavilion is Via Napoli Pizzeria e Ristorante. Completed in 2010, this restaurant serves brick oven pizza by the pie or by the slice. The water used to make the pizza is shipped in from a spring similar to those found in Italy’s Campania region in order to most authentically replicate the pizza found in Southern Italy.
The pizzas, made with Caputo flour imported from Southern Italy, are cooked in wood-burning ovens named after the three active volcanoes in Italy—Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and Stromboli. The family-friendly restaurant also serves other entrees influenced by Southern Italy.
Finally, before heading out of the pavilion, there is The Carretto Siciliano or the Sicilian Donkey Cart. While formerly located outside of the pavilion and serving sweet treats (like cannoli), it is now located in the pavilion and it is a beverage cart serving wine and other drinks.
How does Epcot’s version of Italy hold up?
It’s clear in all the tiny details, many of which can go completely unnoticed, that there is a major attempt by Imagineers to at least pay homage to each and every corner of Italy. Whether it’s subtle inclusion of olive trees in the landscaping or the use of a table built in Florence in a restaurant, an 83-foot tall bell tower or a brightly painted donkey cart, there has been an admirable attempt to exemplify Italy in the creation of the pavilion.
Yet, with all of these details, both the big and the little, there is still much of Italy missing. With Italy’s thousands of years of rich heritage, its history and its art, the pavilion itself is underwhelming in its representation of the depth of this country. And this is made even more so by the sheer fact that the pavilion is lined by a mere plain wall and hedgerow on one side. Perhaps if the pavilion had entered Phase II and those rumoured hints towards the ruins of ancient Rome were integrated, the pavilion would be able to capture some of that depth of antiquity that it is missing.
One single large square, Plaza del Teatro, is what is given to this country. And while the architecture of the buildings does a good job of calling to mind some of the cities of Italy, this structure negates the history of the cities. Gone are the small winding streets. Gone are the cobblestones. Gone are the nooks and crannies, where every turn leads to a new discovery of some ancient secret of these rich cities.
While other pavilions have meandering passageways (think UK and Morocco), Italy is relegated to one large square entirely devoid of the feeling of ancient stones and ancient structures. It feels like a modern representation, using modern materials, that completely strips the heritage of the cities they aim to represent.
Additionally, some of the histories of the country is missing in the pavilion’s failure to include a nod to the small hilltop villages that dot the interior of the country and the rolling hills that help to shape the romance and allure that call to many of those visiting and living in the country.
While the Mediterranean foliage and the vines growing along the brick walls may be considered an attempt to recognize and celebrate the lush countryside of Italy, it is a small gesture, a slight nod rather than an attempt at recreation. And this is still to say nothing of the Italian Alps that make no appearance in the pavilion.
Of course, this all begs the question of whether it is even possible to encapsulate an entire 301,230-kilometer country in such a tiny space. And I’d have to firmly respond in the negative. No, it is not possible to represent every region, every climate. It is not possible to recreate the history, the depth, the romance.
But in this pavilion, the Imagineers seem to have at least attempted to pay homage to a great number of those aspects of the country. Can they do more? Perhaps. But there is still the possibility that those nods towards different regions and histories are still there, embedded deep in the tiny details of every space of the pavilion.
This post was written by…
Jen of Three Kids and a Car
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