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December 6, 2011

Italy Pavilion - Part Two of Two

Yesterday, I began my description of the Italy Pavilion. Today, I'll complete the tour.

L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante was the original (and only) restaurant at the Italy Pavilion for 25 years. It was operated by Alfredo's of Rome and was one of the most successful and profitable restaurants at Epcot. So it came as a surprise to many when their contract expired and it was not renewed. Disney rarely releases details in cases like these, which left speculation as to the "whys and wherefores" regarding the closure. L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante served its last meal on August 31, 2007.


L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante


Knowing that they would not be renewing the contract with Alfredo's, Disney announced in April, 2007 that the Patina Restaurant Group would be taking over the vacated space. It's interesting to note, the Patina Restaurant Group already sponsored three eateries at Disneyland's Downtown Disney. Although the restaurant at the Italy Pavilion never closed, the Patina Restaurant Group didn't hold their official opening until September 22, 2007, as it took them a couple of weeks to change signage and make other alterations. The new restaurant was named Tutto Italia, which translates to "All Italy".


Tutto Italia Exterior

Tutto Italia Exterior

Tutto Italia Exterior


As the name implies, the menu offers a variety of Italian cuisines from all over the country. Chef Joachim Splichal created the menu which includes such items as Risotto Ai Gamberi E Aragosta (Creamy Arborio Rice, lobster, shrimp, herbs, butter, parmesan cheese), Cannelloni al Forno (baked with spinach, ricotta, bechamel and parmesan cheese), and Brasato Di Manzo Al Vino Rosso (red wine braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, and vegetables).

The exterior and interior of Tutto Italia was based on the Florentine style of architecture and design, giving it an elegant and formal appearance. This sophistication is apparent as you enter the lobby. Rich carpeting and ornate furnishings transport you to a bygone age of pomp and ceremony. In the dining room, beautiful crystal chandeliers illuminate a large chamber of dark woods and vivid colors. But perhaps the most stunning feature of this room is the wall paintings. Called trompe l'"il (French for "deceive the eye"), this form of artistry uses extremely realistic imagery to create the illusion that the objects appear three dimensional. When creating the murals, the Imagineers duplicated the style of Paolo Veronese (1528 - 1588) a Venetian painter of the Renaissance.


Tutto Italia Interior

Tutto Italia Interior

Tutto Italia Interior

Tutto Italia Murals

Tutto Italia Murals


Outdoor seating is also available at Tutto Italia. When the weather is nice, it becomes a difficult choice to choose between the formal, indoor setting or the casual, sidewalk café atmosphere. Either way, you can't go wrong.


Tutto Italia Outdoor Seating


For many years, the Italy Pavilion had an unfinished look. A pleasant enough stone wall and cypress trees marked the back of the pavilion, but I always felt more could be and should be added beyond this barrier. Well it turns out I was right in my assessment. Original plans called for a gondola dark ride and a Roman ruins walk-through to be built at the back of the pavilion. I have no idea how far these concepts ever progressed, but you can rest assured it was a lack of funding that prevented these attractions.

Today, this unfinished look is gone as a new restaurant, Via Napoli, was built in the back portions of the Italy Pavilion. Officially opening on August 5, 2010, this eatery is also part of the Patina Restaurant Group which operates Tutto Italia. The architecture and design of the restaurant is based on a mix of traditional Italian styles. Florentine architect Stefano Nardini, working in conjunction with architect Rick Swisher, created a stunning building that employs the "draw concept" to lure guests to the far reaches of the pavilion.


Via Napoli Exterior


The interior of the restaurant is light, airy, and very spacious and the tables are spaced a good distance from one another. I like this as I hate to be seated so close to another party that I can overhear every word they say. Via Napoli features a show kitchen that invites guests to walk up and watch the chefs create their magic. Architect Nardini brought some whimsy to the kitchen by creating three wood-burning ovens and named them after the active volcanoes in Italy, Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and Mount Stromboli. Each oven was given a face reflecting the gods whose mythology surrounds each volcano's history. The long communal table in the center of the room was built in Florence and features hand painted tiles depicting iconic monuments in Italy.


Via Napoli Interior

Via Napoli Interior

Via Napoli Interior


Via Napoli can seat 250 inside and 50 on the outside, covered patio. When the restaurant first opened, the patio was open air. However, doors have been added that can be opened or closed depending on the weather.


Via Napoli Patio Seating


Via Napoli specializes in pizza. This is not like what you'd take home from Dominoes. This is gourmet, Neapolitan style pizza with toppings like calamari, artichoke, eggplant, prosciutto, and arugula. Of course, traditional toppings like pepperoni and mushrooms are also available. In an effort to recreate Neapolitan pizza as closely as possible, the flour is imported from Italy and the water calibrated to match the pH found in Naples.


Pizza


I was on hand for the grand opening of Via Napoli. If you'd like to read the blog I wrote at that time, click here.

I suspect that only Cinderella Castle is used more as a photo backdrop than the statue of Neptune at the Italy Pavilion. This fountain often has a line of people waiting to take their turn getting a picture with this Roman god in the background. The fountain is based on two sculptures, the original Neptune Fountain in Florence by Bartolomeo Ammannatin and Trevi Fountain located in Rome by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.


Italy Pavilion Neptune Fountain

Florence Neptune Fountain

Trevi Fountain


The Greeks called their "God of the Sea" Poseidon and he was usually accompanied by his trident and one or more dolphins, who were his messengers. When Rome adopted the Greek gods as their own, they often changed little more than their names. This statue is a good example depicting Neptune with his trident and two messenger dolphins.

Legend has it that if you toss a coin into Trevi Fountain, it will ensure a return visit to Rome. Perhaps a similar legend is true here and a return trip to Walt Disney World could be in your future. But remember, the legend also states that coins tossed in Trevi Fountain must be done with your back to the water and the coin tossed over your shoulder.

Next to the Neptune Fountain is a long, stone wall. Planted here are grape vines. This, of course, represents Italy's wine industry. Italy produces approximately one-fifth of the world's wine, making it the largest producer in the world. Italy cultivates grapes in virtually every region of the country and has thousands of vineyards. Italians also lead the world in wine consumption. Per capita, they drink 18½ gallons a year as compared to 6½ gallons in the U.S.


Grape Vines


In architecture, a capital is the decorative piece that sits atop a column and receives the weight placed upon it, broadening the column's supporting surface. In the Italy Pavilion, homage is paid to a variety of renaissance-style capitals.


Capitals

Capitals


Angels were a common theme in art during the Holy Roman Empire and no depiction of Italy would be complete without a statue of one of these spiritual beings. Here we see the Archangel Gabriel. An observant eye might notice that this angel is an exact copy of the one perched atop the campanile.


Archangel Gabriel

Archangel Gabriel


Completing our circle around the Italy Pavilion, we come to a building with a red tile roof. The structure is reminiscent of a market-square city hall found in Northern Italian communities like Tuscany or Bergamo in the 15th or 16th century. If you look closely, you can see the stucco has fallen from the walls in a number of places.


Market-Square Building

Market-Square Building

Market-Square Building

Market-Square Building

Missing Stucco


A Kidcot station can be found in this building's wing. Here, a cast member will be happy to stamp your child's Epcot Passport and teach him or her a few words in Italian.


Kidcot Station


In the front half of the main building is the Enoteca Castello (Castle Wine Cellar) shop. As you might guess, this spot carries a large selection of Italian red and white wines. Wine by the glass is also sold and there are plenty of tables and chairs outside to sit with friends and enjoy your vino.


Enoteca Castello

Enoteca Castello

Outdoor Seating


With the 2011 Food & Wine Festival, came two new vintages to this store. Sogno d'Italia (Dream of Italy) is bottled exclusively for Disney Parks by Placido and imported by Banfi Vintners.

The Chianti (red wine) is predominately made with the region's native Sangiovese grape and has a fresh and bright fruit character. The Pinot Grigio (white wine) has a fragrant bouquet, crisp fruit freshness, and lingering finish. If you want to buy your friends back home a unique Disney gift, this just might be the ticket.


Sogno d'Italia

Sogno d'Italia


In the back half of this building is La Bottega Italiana (The Italian Boutique). Here you'll find a potpourri of Italian goodies. Candies, cookies, pasta, olive oil, spices, cooking accessories, clothing, and a lot more can be found on the shelves here. This shop deserves more than just a cursory glance.


La Bottega Italiana

La Bottega Italiana

La Bottega Italiana


But I think my favorite item for sale at La Bottega Italiana is the hand-blown glass Mr. Potato Head inserts. These aren't your standard Hasbro pieces, but unique animal parts that are inserted into real potatoes or other vegetables.


Mr. Potato Head


Another site seen around the Italy Pavilion is the Sicilian cart and donkey. Ornately decorated carts like this one were introduced to Sicily by the ancient Greeks and reached their peak in popularity in the 1920's when thousands could be seen traversing the island. Horses were used primarily in urban areas where roads were readily available. Donkeys were used in the country where rough terrain was often encountered. The carts were used for hauling miscellaneous light loads, such as produce, wood, wine, and people. They were also put into service at weddings and festivals.


Donkey & Cart


Although the Italy Pavilion has no rides, it does have live performances. Currently, a juggler and comic known as Sergio and a zany group called the Ziti Sisters perform at various times each day. Performances are presented in front of the campanile, not on the raised platform found in the middle of the piazza. Check your Times Guide for more information.


Sergio

Ziti Sisters


Do you know why Italians call Mickey Mouse, Topolino?


Topolino


In 1932, Italian newspaper editor Mario Nerbini decided to create a new weekly for children with stories about Mickey Mouse. The first edition was published on December 31, 1932 and featured Mickey Mouse being chased by an elephant. Unfortunately, Nerbini had not properly secured the publication rights and Disney complained. So in subsequent editions, Nerbini changed the name of the weekly to Topo Lino (the little mouse) and swapped out Mickey with another mouse, also to be called Topo Lino. Eventually, Nerbini secured the rights to Mickey. With issue number 7, Mickey returned and the weekly's name was changed again, this time to Topolino (the space between Topo and Lino was removed). But by then, the damage was done and Mickey became known as Topolino in Italy.

In the Mediterranean Harbor section of Tokyo DisneySea, Topolino is honored with signage.


Tokyo Disney Sea Signage


That's it for my blog about the Italy Pavilion. As always, I have created a video for your pleasure. It is twelve minutes in length. Enjoy.




December 5, 2011

Italy Pavilion - Part One of Two

The Italy Pavilion may be one of the smaller countries of World Showcase, yet it still packs a lot of charm and details into a little space. While the other nations present a mixture of architectural styles found within their borders, the Italy Pavilion is weighted more heavily toward Venice. It's not that this design is the most prevalent in Italy, but rather the most recognizable and associated with this peninsular nation.


Italy Pavilion


The founding of Venice is considered to have occurred at the stroke of noon on March 25, 421, with the dedication of its first church, San Giacomo. Today, the city sits on 117 small islands, connected by bridges and linked by canals.

All of the World Showcase nations cross the promenade and have features that extend to the water's edge, and the Italy Pavilion is no exception. Here, Isola del Lago (Isle of the Lake) was built to represent one of the islands of Venice. This island allowed the Imagineers to include a number of pedestrian bridges, a vital element if the essence of Venice is to be invoked.


Venetian Bridge

Venetian Bridge

Venetian Bridge


For centuries, the gondola was the primary mode of transportation within the city of Venice and during the 17th and 18th century, eight to ten thousand of these flat-bottomed boats plied the waterways here. Today, there are only around 400 and they serve mainly tourists. Contrary to popular belief, gondolas are propelled with oars and are not "poked" or "punted" as the water is too deep. At the Italy Pavilion, several of these imaginative vessels can be seen moored to barbershop-style poles near Isola del Lago.


Gondola

Gondola


At Tokyo DisneySea, gondola rides are available in the Mediterranean Harbor portion of the park. It's very interesting to hear the Japanese cast members sing "O Sole Mio" as they navigate the waterways.


Tokyo Disney Sea Gondola

Tokyo Disney Sea Gondoleer


Isola del Lago, which sits on the edge of World Showcase Lagoon, offers fantastic views of Illuminations each evening. But don't hold your breath to see the nightly spectacular from this spot. More often than not, this area is rented to private groups and access granted to invited guests only.


Isola del Lago

Isola del Lago


The entrance to the Italy Pavilion is marked by two massive columns. Atop the column on the right is Saint Theodore of Amasea slaying a dragon. Atop the column on the left is a winged lion. So why do these figures grace these pillars?

Saint Theodore shares a legend similar to that of Saint George. It seems there was a dragon (or crocodile) terrorizing the countryside around Amasea, a city in Northern Turkey. Saint Theodore was able to vanquish the beast with the aid of a cross and saved the city and its inhabitants.

Venice was originally part of the Eastern Roman Empire which was ruled from Constantinople. Since Saint Theodore carried strong ties with Eastern Christianity, he became the first patron saint of Venice. However, as the years progressed and Venice and its importance grew, the city wanted to distance itself from the east. In a display of independence in 828AD, two Venetian merchants stole the remains of Saint Mark from a tomb in Alexandria, Egypt and brought them back to the chapel of Doge. From that time forward, Saint Mark became the patron Saint of Venice.

Today in Venice, two columns can be found in the Piazzetta di San Marco. Atop the western column is Saint Theodore of Amasea and atop the eastern column is a winged lion, a beast closely associated with Saint Mark. Thus, both saints have been remembered. The winged lion has become the symbol of Venice

Following are three sets of two pictures. The first of each set was taken in Venice, the second taken in Epcot. Notice the magnificent job the Imagineers did at recreating these sculptures.


Venice Columns

Italy Pavilion Columns

Venice Column

Italy Pavilion Column

Venice Column

Italy Pavilion Column


Neighborhoods and towns all across Italy are built around piazzas. A piazza (or square) serves as a gathering spot where people can mingle over a cappuccino, stroll with a loved one, and people watch. The Italy Pavilion carries on this tradition and all of the buildings and structures face onto this communal hub. If only Disney would import a few pigeons, then the feel of Saint Mark's Square would be complete. On second thought, strike that idea. We don't need any pigeons at Walt Disney World.


Piazza

Piazza

Piazza


In the middle of the piazza is a raised platform. This platform was designed with performances in mind. However, for a number of years now, this area has been abandoned and shows have been presented closer to the promenade.


Piazza Platform


When standing in the middle of the piazza, look around and notice the colors. A warm palette was used. Shades of pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows grace the buildings, pottery, and walkways. No other country, not even the areas of Greece and Spain which boarder the Mediterranean, duplicate these hues in quite the same way. These are the colors of Italy.


Colors of Italy

Colors of Italy

Colors of Italy

Colors of Italy


The two most prominent structures of the Italy Pavilion are Disney's duplication of the Doge's Palace and the accompanying 100-foot tall campanile. The Doge's Palace in Venice, as it stands today, was built between 1309 and 1424 and was influenced heavily by the Gothic and Renaissance styles of architecture. The palace was the residence of the doge (magistrate), the supreme power of the Republic of Venice. Today the building serves as a museum.

At World Showcase, the Imagineers did a fantastic job of building a scaled down version of the Doge's Palace. In some cases, the details are identical and it would be difficult to tell the original from the copy. And in cases where features vary from the original, the flavor and style are so close that few would notice the differences.

Take a look at these pairs of pictures. The first is of the original palace in Venice and the second is that of the Italy Pavilion.


Venice Details

Italy Pavilion Details

Venice Details

Italy Pavilion Details

Venice Details

Italy Pavilion Details

Venice Details

Italy Pavilion Details

Venice Details

Italy Pavilion Details

Venice Details

Italy Pavilion Details


Campanile is an Italian word meaning "bell tower." The campanile which stands in Saint Mark's Square is 323 feet tall and 39 feet wide. The tower's initial construction began in the 9th century and it was used as a watchtower for the nearby dock. Over the centuries, the tower has been damaged several times due to fires and earthquakes. When the campanile was converted from a watchtower to a bell tower, five bells were installed, each with a designated purpose. The largest rang at the beginning and end of the workday, one rang at midday, another rang to summon members to council meetings, a fourth proclaimed a session of the Senate, and the last announced executions.

Once again, the Imagineers did an outstanding job of creating a duplicate for the Italy Pavilion as seen in the second picture.


Venice Campanile

Italy Pavilion Campanile


Atop the campanile is the Archangel Gabriel. This replica of the original is covered in gold. However, this was done for practical reasons as well as for beauty. Since gold does not tarnish, it is cheaper to use this precious metal rather than refurbish the angel on a regular basis. The castles at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom also use real gold on a number of their adornments.


Venice Archangel Gabriel

Italy Pavilion Archangel Gabriel


Those familiar with Saint Mark's Square may notice that Disney's version is a mirror image of the original. This was done for two reasons. First, the Imagineers did not want to simply duplicate the original, but rather give the World Showcase version a personality of its own. Secondly, if the structures had been placed in their "proper" position, the mass of the Doge's Palace and the nearby American Adventure created an imbalance. Placing the campanile between these two buildings created better symmetry when viewed from afar.


Venice St. Mark's Square

Italy Pavilion St. Mark's Square


At the far end of Disney's Doge's Palace is a carving of a grotesque face. In ancient times, faces like these could be found all over Venice. The citizenry could anonymously (probably in the dark of night) drop slips of paper into the open mouths of these faces and report their neighbors of wrongdoings or voice complaints about the government. The face at the Doge's Palace was specifically intended to be used to report financial crimes such as tax evasion. The first picture was taken at Doge's Palace, the second and third at World Showcase.


Venice Informant's Face

Italy Pavilion Informant's Face

Italy Pavilion Informant's Face


For those of you who thought this face was inspired by La Bocca della Verità (mouth of truth) as seen in the 1953 movie "Roman Holiday," sorry.


Roman Holiday


There are two shops within Disney's Doge's Palace. Il Belle Cristallo (The Beautiful Crystal) sells clothing, fine leather goods, and jewelry. In addition, the complete line of fragrances offered by Acqua di Parma is available here. Gentleman take note, there are four scents created especially for men. Sample swaths are on hand for all of the perfumes. The cast members in this section of the shop work for Acqua di Parma and are highly knowledgeable about the product. Since you're visiting Disney and not a department store, you will receive only information and not a high pressure sales pitch.


Il Belle Cristallo

Il Belle Cristallo

Il Belle Cristallo

Acqua di Parma

Acqua di Parma


In another section of Il Belle Cristallo, Prada offers a fragrance exclusive to Epcot and their New York store. Once again, the cast members in this section of the shop work for Prada and are more than happy to answer questions without encouraging you to buy.


Prada

Prada


La Gemma Elegante (The Elegant Gem) shop is located in the back half of the Doge's Palace. Here you'll be dazzled by an overwhelming display of Venetian masks, all of them for sale.

Venetian masks are believed to date back to 1163 when Doge Vitale Michieli was victorious over Ulrich II of Treven. To celebrate the event, a party, called Carnevale was given. At the celebration, all of the attendees donned masks to hide any form of identity between social classes. Eventually, the church incorporated the event into Christianity and the Carnival of Venice became an annual festival beginning forty days before Easter and ending on Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday). As time went on, Venetian masks found their way into local theater productions and characters' occupations and stations were identified by the mask they wore. In other cases, Venetian masks were used to help a person interact with members above or below their station, thus giving them an equal footing in transactions or encounters.


La Gemma Elegante

Venetian Masks

Venetian Masks

Venetian Masks

Venetian Masks


I think my favorite staircase in all of Walt Disney World can be found between the Doge's Palace and Tutto Italia Ristorante. These steps are not open to the public and I suspect that only storerooms and offices can be found on the second floor. Still, my mind conjures up wonderful treasures and discoveries if only Disney would allow me to climb to the top. Part of this has to do with my vivid imagination, but a lot of this has to do with the skill the Imagineers use to turn an everyday element into something magical. This style staircase and bridge is typical of what you might find in Verona.


Verona Stairway


That's it for Part One of the Italy Pavilion. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



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