The 2015 Milan Expo wrapped up on October 31, 2015. 21 million people visited the Expo, shattering the goal of 20 million attendees. There are still decisions being made about what will happen to the Expo site (dismantling of the pavilions began on November 2 and may continue through May 2016), so this page will continue to have archived Expo information for now. When there’s new info about the fate of the Expo site – including the artwork that was installed – I’ll update this page.
Seven years after the city of Milan was chosen to host the 2015 Expo, the finished product is about to be unveiled: Milan Expo 2015 opens on May 1.
As a bit of background, you’ve probably heard of a World’s Fair before, right? Maybe you saw the Judy Garland movie “Meet Me in St. Louis,” about the 1904 World’s Fair. Perhaps you remember the bit of trivia that the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hated by Parisians when it was first erected in 1889, was built for that year’s World’s Fair (and was supposed to be torn down afterward). By the 1967 edition, the name had changed to include the word “Exposition,” shortened to “Expo,” which is what these events are still called.
Each Expo event is designed to give participating countries a chance to show off their latest developments in whatever the Expo theme is. The events consist of exhibition spaces for each country, and typically last for several months.
And now, back to our story:
The theme of Expo Milano 2015, which runs from May 1-October 31, is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” with seven sub-themes under that umbrella:
This is the first time a World’s Fair has had “food” as a theme, and more than 140 countries will participate in the event to address what organizers call “a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium.” The intersection of culture, tradition, and diet with sustainability, technology, and innovation could lead to some creative ideas. “The idea,” say organizers, “is to open up a dialogue between international players, and to exchange views on these major challenges which impact everyone.”
It’s not entirely without a whimsical element, however. The mascot, Foody, certainly makes me smile.
Because the theme of the Expo is food, the exhibition halls have been described as a gigantic restaurant or food court. Many countries are bringing the best of their food culture to show off, in addition to scientific and environmental advances they’re making in food cultivation. The United States pavilion will have, among its more high-brow offerings, a fleet of food trucks. A photography exhibition by Sicilian photographer Ferdinando Scianna telling the story of Mediterranean culinary traditions will be on display. There’s a “Children Park” with games for kids ages 4-10 along the lines of the “feeding the planet” theme. The Italian pavilion will be showcasing the production of Grana Padano cheese (including a dairy built on-site just for the event), and Eurochocolate – one of Europe’s largest chocolate festivals, which takes place in Perugia every year – is in charge of running the cocoa pavilion.
(As a side note, each foodstuff has its own section, which they’re calling “Clusters,” making that cocoa pavilion a Cocoa Cluster. Like it’s some new sugary breakfast cereal. I find that delightful.)
If you fancy bringing home some food-related knowledge to your own kitchen, you may be pleased to learn that there’s a special Expo WorldRecipes app, an “online cookbook” compiled from participating nations.
Milan already had an area outside the city center for trade fairs, but a brand new exhibition space was built for the Expo near the existing one in Rho. It’s not right in the historic center, but it’s easy to get there using public transportation.
The Expo grounds include pavilions for many participating countries, each with a unique design, and a central structure with two main “streets” that intersect – the Decumano and Cardo, references to ancient Roman roads. The point where the two “roads” intersect is called Piazza Italia. At the northern point of the grounds is a circular pond called Lake Arena, with a huge “Tree of Life” sculpture and fountain at its center (the tree will be illuminated every hour on the hour for five minutes, with lights, music, water features, and more). At the southern end is an open-air theater with a wide, sloping lawn behind the seating area that can host performances for up to 11,000 people.
Milan last hosted a World’s Fair in 1906 (the theme was Transportation), and while there were purpose-built structures erected for that event only one remains standing and in use today – the Civic Aquarium in Parco Sempione. The park became the temporary home for more than 200 pavilions that year. It’s likely some of the exhibition structures built for Expo 2015 will be incorporated into the existing trade fair grounds and used quite a bit in the future, while others (the open-air theater, for instance) could be used for performances and events after the Expo is finished.
There are plenty of things to do in Milan no matter when you go, but if you’re visiting the city during the Expo there are even more things to add to your must-see list. This is far from a comprehensive list, and I suspect more will be added (it’s a six-month event, after all), but here are just a few of the special events going on in Milan during the Expo.
Organizers are projecting that 20 million people will visit the Milan Expo, a third of which are expected to be non-Italians, and many of them are likely to spend time in other parts of Italy before or after Milan. What this means for you, whether you plan to go to Expo 2015 or not, is that major attractions in Italy may be even more crowded than usual during the six months of the Expo, lines for museums are apt to be longer, and hotels are likely to be booked further in advance.
There are a number of different ticket types available to attend the Expo, and prices go up if you buy them after the Expo kicks off on May 1. There are open-date tickets – meaning you can go whenever you like – so if you know you’ll be in Milan during the Expo and you want to check it out, you may want to buy your ticket before the event begins and use it whenever you get there. If you aren’t making firm plans yet, however, not to worry – the price difference probably isn’t so huge as to make you change your mind.
Do keep in mind, however, that even if you buy an open-date ticket, it’s best if you can select a date as soon as you know when you’ll be going to the Expo. The grounds are huge, but there’s also a point at which they reach capacity and basically are “sold out” on any given day. When you buy your ticket online, you’ll register on the Expo site, so to choose a date later on you’ll just log back into your Expo profile and affix a date to your already-purchased ticket. This isn’t a requirement, but if you just head out to the Expo with your open-date ticket you may get turned away if the grounds are already full when you get there.
Here’s a list of some of the ticket prices for Expo 2015:
The breakdown of ticket prices is much more complicated than I can reproduce in a simple list here. There are more options available than what I’ve listed – two consecutive days, for instance, is cheaper than a simple two-day pass – and there are some clarifying bits of information you should keep in mind when you’re looking at my list:
For a full – and, therefore, really long – list of all the ticket prices, see the official ticket price list.
As for where you can get tickets, they’re available via the official website, as well as in Milan at Expo Gate in Piazza Cairoli.
All images courtesy of Milan Expo 2015