Milan Expo 2015: What You Need to Know

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.


Expo Milano 2015 logo

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.

Quick links to what you need to know in this article:
Milan Expo Theme & Story
Milan Expo Grounds
Special Events in Milan During the Expo
Milan Expo Ticket Information

Wait a second. What’s an Expo, anyway?

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:

Milan Expo 2015

Overview of the Expo 2015 grounds

Overview of the Expo 2015 grounds

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:

  • Science for Food Safety, Security and Quality
  • Innovation in the Agro Food Supply Chain
  • Technology for Agriculture and Biodiversity
  • Dietary Education
  • Solidarity and Cooperation on Food
  • Food for Better Lifestyles
  • Food in the World’s Cultures and Ethnic Groups

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.

Expo 2015 Exhibition Site

The Expo 2015 grounds share the Rho-Fiera transit stops

The Expo 2015 grounds share the Rho-Fiera transit stops

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.

Lake Arena

Lake Arena

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.

Special Expo 2015 Events

Cirque du Soleil Allavita!

Cirque du Soleil Allavita!

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.

  • Cirque du Soleil’s Allavita! Show – The internationally-known circus company has created a show just for the Expo. It runs from May 13-August 30 in the Expo’s open-air theater. Note that for these shows you’ll need both a ticket to the performance and a separate ticket to the Expo that day. Prices for just the Cirque du Soleil show range from €25-35.
  • La Scala Theater – La Scala has never before been open during the summer (that’s typically its off-season), but it has filled its summer calendar with performances so Expo-goers can enjoy a show at the famous opera house.
  • Leonardo 1452-1519 – A special exhibit of da Vinci’s work – the largest ever held in Italy – will be at the Palazzo Reale, right next door to the Duomo, from April 16-July 19. The focus is on work he did while he was living in Milan in the late 1400s.
  • Leonardo da Vinci Codex Atlanticus Exhibit – The Codex Atlanticus, a collection of a dozen volumes of da Vinci’s sketches and notes, is typically on display in two places in Milan – the Biblioteca Ambrosiana and the Bramante Sacristy. Until October 31, large parts that have never before been on display will be available for viewing.
  • Leonardo3 Museum – In the Piazza della Scala, a temporary interactive museum has been set up, showcasing working models of some of da Vinci’s machines, as well as 3D renderings of some of his artwork. The museum will be open until October 31.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Vineyard – As payment for painting “The Last Supper,” da Vinci was given a property in Milan, on which he grew grapes for wine. The vineyard has been a garden behind the Casa degli Atellani palazzo since the 1950s, but researchers have recently not only found the vines but found them to still be alive. They’ve restored the vineyard to its appearance during da Vinci’s era, and it opens to the public for the first time on May 1.
  • “Kitchens & Invaders” Exhibit – The excellent Triennale Design Museum is hosting a special exhibit inspired by the sci-fi novel “The Body Snatchers.” The exhibit will focus on the evolution of simple kitchen appliances that have turned into electrical “robots,” and it runs from April 9, 2015 through February 21, 2016.
  • “Arts & Foods: Rituals Since 1851” Exhibit – Another exhibit at the Triennale, Arts & Foods, traces the relationship between food and the art world in what’s being called the “Arts & Foods pavilion” of the Expo (the location of which is both indoors and outdoors at the Triennale Design Museum instead of the Expo grounds). The date of 1851 is significant as the very first World Expo. It runs from April 9-November 1, 2015.
  • “Food, From the Spoon to the Mouth” Exhibit – Special Expo-related events aren’t limited to Milan, either. Rome’s museum of 21st century art, MAXXI, is hosting an exhibition called “Food” from May 29-November 8, 2015 in conjunction with the Expo. The exhibit is focused on the art and architecture of how we store, distribute, consume, and dispose of food.
  • Wheatfield – Part art installation, part urban agriculture project, this 12-acre field of wheat in the Porta Nuova district in the north of the city center was planted in March and will be harvested in October. The piece is by American artist Agnes Denes, and is part of MiArt, the modern and contemporary art fair held annually in Milan.

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.

Guided Tours in Milan

Looking for tips on what to eat and drink while you’re in Milan? My pal Katie Parla has some excellent suggestions, and the Sauce Milan site is entirely devoted to dining and drinking in the city.

Tickets for Expo Milano 2015

Expo Gate at Cairoli

Expo Gate at Cairoli

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:

  • Season Pass – €115 adult, €89 senior/student, €57 child
  • 1-Day Ticket – €39/€34 adult, €28/€24 senior, €33/€29 student, €16 child
  • 2-Day Pass – €72 adult (14+ years), €51 senior, €30 child
  • 3-Day Pass – €105 adult (14+ years), €76 senior, €45 child
  • 1-Day Family Package – €49.50/€43 one adult + one child, €84.50/€73 two adults + one child, €64/€56 one adult + two children, €99/€86 two adults + two children (€10 each additional child)
  • Evening Ticket – €5 added price to any day ticket

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:

  • Where two prices are listed, such as €39/€34 adult, the first price is for an open-date ticket and the second is for a fixed date ticket.
  • Students are classified as between the ages of 14-25.
  • Children are classified as between the ages of 4-13.

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

32 responses to “Milan Expo 2015: What You Need to Know”

  1. Cindy Hoover says:

    My friend & I are flying into the Malpensa airport on April 28th. Can we buy the Expo ticket there and/or the milan card expo? Or should we buy it online and where would we pick it up?
    Thank you for your attention,
    Cindy Hoover

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note, Cindy! At the end of this post (above), I link to the official list of ticket sales points in Milan, as well as the online ticket sales. Buying a ticket online means you have the ticket immediately – you print it out – so there’s no need to pick it up anywhere.

  2. Patti says:

    Your blog is full of excellent information. I will be arriving May 1 and heading to Lake Como for three nights.
    I fly back May 7th but plan on being in Milan for the Expo May 6 (after two days in Venice). I purchased two open day tickets since I was unable to purchase fixed tickets for May 6 (sold out). My plan is to get to the grounds one or two hours before the gates open at 10am. Do you think this is a safe plan for not getting turned away at gate? Also, I plan on staying until closing; from what I read the evening events are something not to be missed.
    Also, I assume each country will have products for purchase as I also plan on making purchases (spices, country specific items, etc.)……I plan on bringing an empty backpack for storing these purchases as I stroll through the Expo. Can’t wait! One thing I am debating is whether I should cut one of the three nights in Lake Como……Expo is once in a lifetime event, Lake Como will always be there! Not to many blogs with suggestions on how to dress for the Expo, how to make the most of the day (almost like a Disney style recommendation of what to see first at what times of the day, etc), and I have not seen a list of products that will be available for purchase.

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Patti!

      I must say, everything I’ve read about tickets for the Expo say that you’re taking your chances by showing up without a ticket for that specific date. Even if you buy an open-date ticket, the site recommends registering it for a date as soon as you know when you’ll be there. And if you already know it’s sold out, I’m not sure there’s any way around that. We may know more after the event kicks off on May 1, hearing about how “sold out” days are actually handled on-site, but based solely on what I’ve read I wouldn’t be confident you’ll be able to get in on May 6. If there’s another day that’s not sold out during your trip & you can rearrange things a bit, you might want to do that. I wish you the best of luck, either way. Please let me know if you manage to get in!

      As for how to dress, I’d go with “comfortable” – you’ll be doing a lot of walking! And I’m sure we’ll see more of the “how to make the most of it” when the event begins – they’re still putting the finishing touches on several pavilions.

  3. Ken Richter says:

    Hi ,
    I really enjoy your blog. Will be arriving Friday afternoon in Milan in a few weeks. Just realized that the Milan Expo
    will be taking place. We arrive at the Central Train Station. Unfortunately, we fly out early the next morning and are
    staying near the international airport. Do you think it is possible to see any of the Expo on Friday ? Will it be worth the
    effort to see it a little of it ?
    Thanks, Ken Richter

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Ken – Thanks for the note! If you’re interested in seeing the Expo, check on the availability of tickets on Friday. They may be sold out already on that day, which would make the question moot. If there are some available, then you can make the call on whether or not to spend the money on a ticket and head out to see it. With an afternoon arrival in Milan, you won’t have much time to get out there and look around (the grounds are massive), but it’s also a unique opportunity, so it may be worth it to you anyway. 🙂

    • Patti says:

      If you are staying at a hotel near MXP, think about the time it will take you to get your bags, check into hotel, then the time it will take you to get to Expo then back to your hotel (if staying near the airport, I would re-consider staying inside Milan). Since you will be arriving in the afternoon, you might not get there until late afternoon. Depending on how much energy you have left, it might not be a good idea. I came directly from Venice (took the 5:30 am train 2.5 hour train ride), went into Milan Central Station, hopped on underground Metro, walked several blocks to the hotel, and check in. After settling into room, we walked about a block to get back on the the Red line (same underground metro), with many stops along the way, the Expo was the last stop. So even with an early start, we arrived around 12 pm; Once you get to the Expo you have to walk some distance to get to the front gate. We stayed until closing and could not see all the countries. It was an excellent experience and glad I did it. If you are in shape, can walk long distances, and can go without resting, you can make it. I enjoy learning about other cultures, therefore, it was worth it, however, for my husband who’s feet got swollen by end of day, he would tell you different. I would recommend it if you are staying in Milan and if hotel is close to the Red line.
      My trip was a total 7 days. 3 days in Como (went there directly from airport), highly recommend; then from Como to Venice…Venice 2 days, then one full day in Milan which I spent at the Expo. Although my flight departed the next day @4 pm, we ended up walking the streets near the hotel; You need to arrive at least 2 hours before you departure. Here’s another tip, if you make any large purchases,always ask the merchant if they participate in tax free program. I made a 250 Euro purchase and received around 31 Euros back at the airport. If participating, the merchant fills out forms (you need your passport at time of purchase)keep the forms and present them at the airport for refund. I received my refund on my credit card a few days later. If I knew about this tax free thing I would have purchased a Gucci or two 😉 Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip.

  4. tuekrulas says:


    Im visiting expo 2015 next august and i was wandering how much time is advised to be able to see everything there is to see there.

    Im planning on buying a one day ticket and see how it goes, but im affraid that i wont be able to visit everything in a single day.

    Can you please advise?


    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note! I think you’re right, that one day isn’t enough to see EVERYTHING – but it’s possible you won’t be equally interested in everything, either. I haven’t seen any guidelines on how much time is recommended, probably because everyone’s interest levels are different and therefore impossible to predict for, but I think if you spend some time on the Expo website to see what’s available and make a priority list of what you absolutely don’t want to miss then that’s an excellent place to start.

  5. Kristyna says:

    I would like to ask if there is any programme or event with free entry?
    Thank you

    • Jessica says:

      Well, to get into the Expo itself you need to buy a ticket, so even though things inside the Expo grounds might be free you’re already paying an admission fee to get in. Some of the special events in Milan that are in the city (rather than at the Expo itself) are free, however. Check out the individual links above under the “Special Expo 2015 Events” section to see what each admission fee is.

  6. Dennis Cumiskey says:

    Hi Jessica,

    Let me start out by saying your article was recommended by Madeline Jhawar, whom I had written with several train questions. (She was extremely helpful)

    I love your blog and I will be a repeat user as our date to Milan and the Expo approaches.

    Thanks for your work!


    • Jessica says:

      Oh, thank you for the kind note! (And thanks to Madeline for sending you! She is an absolute wealth of Italy info.) Please let me know if you have any other questions – train or otherwise. And enjoy the Expo!

      • AB says:

        Dear Jessica,

        I pay a fee to enter the Food Expo. Do I still pay for food inside ?


        • Jessica says:

          That’s a good question. My understanding is that the ticket covers entry into the Expo grounds & all the pavilions inside, & that there are food samples in many of the pavilions, but that you will need to pay extra for meals at the many restaurants/food trucks/kiosks that are placed throughout the grounds.

  7. Joe says:

    Dear Jessica:

    We are planning to travel to Italy in November, unfortuantely after Expo is ‘closed.’ Can we still tour the grounds and buildings?

    Thanks so much in advance

    • Jessica says:

      That’s a great question, Joe. From what I can see, it appears that at least some of the structures built for the Expo were intended to be permanent – including the gorgeous Palazzo Italia (Italy’s pavilion at the Expo). I believe most (if not all) of the other national pavilions will be removed, & the site will later be used for housing and perhaps a university – it sounds like that’s all still being worked out. But because you’re talking about November, just the month after the Expo closes, I’m guessing everything will still be standing. Whether they’re allowing people in or not, however, is the question. It may be a flurry of clean-up & deconstruction at that point. I’m going to see if I can find out anything more for you, but I’d also recommend that you stop at a tourist information office in central Milan when you get there – they’ll have the most updated information.

      • Joe says:

        Thanks so much for getting back so quickly, Jessica!


        • Jessica says:

          A friend in Milan just confirmed that there’s been no mention of what’s going to happen to the site immediately after the Expo closes; it may not be announced until the end of October. So, I think my earlier advice stands – check with the TI in central Milan for the best information when you get there.

  8. James says:

    Hi dear Milan Expo,

    I’ll be visiting milan in beginning of November.
    knowjng that the Expo would be ended by then I’d like to know if I could still visit the site during the period.


  9. Brandy says:

    Boy I wish I had found this website sooner, I’ll try to get back to this website tomorrow, we’re flying out tomorrow night and will be in Milan Monday. Maybe by some miracle you’ll be online tomorrow and notice my question. We’re thinking about going to EXPO directly from airport which would mean carrying bag all day, or to hotel and then to EXPO – but do pavilions close at 5 p.m. or later? If later, it would be worth it, but don’t see this information anywhere. Thanks!
    Brandy in New York

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Brandy! From the Expo website: “The Exposition site closes at 23:00 from Monday to Wednesday, and at 24:00 on Saturday and Sunday.” Check out more details, including entry times at different gates, here.

  10. Elaine Biss says:

    I tried to go to the expo yesterday (Sunday) . If you can AVOID weekends as every Italian in the region wants to go to the fair on weekends. The line-up to enter is so big and confusing that it will scare you away. The sun, heat and just shear amount of people was too much. That’s what I did, I walked away and visited Milan instead. Second try today, wish me luck. Do mot buy your ticket in advance like I did. Just buy them on the day of. Plenty of stires and kiosks sell them on site.

  11. Francis Farrugia says:

    I will be visiting EXPO next Wednesday and I want to be one of the first by entering thro Roserio or Merlata gate which opens at 0900. I will be arriving by metro around 0830 how can I get to these gates to have a one hour gain? Can I enter thro these gates. I find your site very interesting

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Francis! Sorry for the delay in replying to you; I’m guessing you’ve been at the Expo today, so I hope you were able to get in where you needed to.

  12. ang zi keng says:

    Hi. Does the 5 euro evening ticket allow me to get free access to one access to the Arts & Foods Exhibition – Rituals from 1851 in the Milan Triennale Space ?

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, there, and thanks for the comment! The evening ticket isn’t €5 – it’s the normal ticket prices listed in the post above PLUS an ADDITIONAL €5. And yes, it appears that admission to the Rituals exhibit is included in the Expo ticket price.

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