Expo Milano 2015- First Impressions

The Milan Expo was by far the most impressive event I’ve ever been to. 140 countries represented, each with their own uniquely designed pavilion. Inside each of these pavilions, the countries displayed their history, culture, and their own take on this year’s theme – “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.

To put this into perspective, the grounds on which the expo took place was larger than any theme park or fair grounds I’ve ever been to. Upon arrival, the sheer size of the entry gate blew me away.

One of three  gates at Expo Milano
One of three gates at Expo Milano

Pictured above is the largest of the expo’s three entrances. It was so large that the top side of it was a fully functioning bridge serving one of the local highways. Also, the only reason this wasn’t a mob scene was because I arrived 30 minutes before the park opened specifically to snap some shots of the exterior.

Once inside, you are met with an almost overwhelming sight, seen below. A beautiful shade structure covering the ‘main drag’ with huge pavilions on either side..

A shot of Expo Milano's main corridor
A shot of Expo Milano’s main corridor

As you can see in the photo, it reaches as far as the eye can see. At the very end was the main expo area where meetings, speeches, and panel discussions take place throughout the duration of the event.

Now, lets dive into some of the pavilions and exactly what they had to offer. I’ll begin with the Italian pavilion. Obviously, being the host country, the Italians had the most grandiose and impressive exhibit.

Italian pavilion (left) next to the Tree of Life (right)
Italian pavilion (left) next to the Tree of Life (right)

While the above photo is a little washed out by the very hot, setting, hot, scorching sun (it has been 90+ degrees all day everyday), you can get an idea of the magnitude of these pavilions.. I’ve even cut out about a third of the structure and the bridge that connects it to its own restaurant.

I waited about an hour just to reach the front door. Due to the fact that the tours of the insides of the pavilions were mostly guided, lines would develop outside of each and every one of them. However, all of them were well worth the wait. So, what does one find inside? I’ll explain the Italian pavilion to give you an idea without wasting your time explaining each and every one.

As explained – first in Italian, of course, then in English – the exhibition was designed “on Italian identity that pays tribute to the extraordinary diversity that distinguishes us while underlining the strength of our unity: all those characteristics that make us unique and instantly recognizable anywhere in the world.” As one can tell by this description alone, the expo is a forum for countries to show off, to strut their stuff, and to explain how they will play a role in sustaining our planet – specifically through future food production.

Italy’s exhibition was split up into 4 main parts:

Strength of Workmanship- We were greeted by a room full of 1/8th sized models of everyday Italians, each of which have a role in the future of Italian food production and procurement. Each offered homage to that person for the commendable work they have done.

Strength of Beauty- We were then moved into a series of rooms detailing the beauty of the Italian landscape, architecture, cuisine, and music. Rooms full of mirrors and hi-def screens displayed images of the alps, works of art, and the many beautiful churches of Italy.

Strength of Limits- The next room shows the natural limits nature puts on unrestricted growth. Images of natural and man-made disasters filled the room. The most striking was footage from inside the St. Francis Basilica as it’s roof collapsed due to an earthquake – a disaster that caused 4 deaths in 1997. But, these limits serve as an engine for creativity which leads to the final section..

Strength of the Future- The final room showed children and their creative nature solving problems and using technology to do so. It showed them planting trees and picking fruit from their school’s gardens. These children – the exhibit suggested – are the future of our planet.

So I hope this gives you a general idea of what I saw in the over 40 exhibits I visited. I wish both of us had the time for me to explain all of them, but I’ll give you some highlights..

USA- Because who doesn’t love America, right?

The front of the USA pavilion
The front of the USA pavilion

The American pavilion featured a huge display of a ‘vertical farm’ as seen on the right hand side. This nearly 10,000 square foot crop wall featured 42 different varieties of veggies, grains, and herbs and represented the future of agriculture (hence the ‘American Food 2.0). Once walking up the steps, visitors are greeted by…. you guessed it, Barack himself. Barry O explained the future of American food and how America plays an integral part in the World’s supply of food. The pavilion’s representatives each dressed in what could be considered traditional garb. So naturally, the Americans were dressed in Brooks Brothers jeans, blazers, button downs, ties for the men, and scarves for the ladies. On the roof of the pavilion was a bar serving traditional American cocktails, beers, and wines. Out back was “food truck nation” a series of 6 food trucks, one serving burgers, one serving BBQ and one that rotated. I was lucky enough to arrive on the days featuring food from the “Beautiful beaches of Ft. Meyers”, so I enjoyed a Shrimp roll and a room-temp beer (ahhhh, refreshing). Overall, the US pavilion was impressive, but not my favorite.

Germany

The German pavilion
The German pavilion

Germany was by far the most impressive. It was extremely interactive, fun, and entertaining. It also featured a beer garden (sensing a theme here?) and a taste of the local cuisine. Again, this was no walk in the park. I waited about an hour in line for this one as well.

Brazil

IMG_1803 

Brazil was also very impressive. Visitors were taken up a path made of rope made to represent the canopy of the rain forest. It was a blast for me.. Not so much for ladies in dresses or heels.

The United Kingdom

IMG_1774The UK’s was one of the more dramatic from a visual standpoint. It focused on the importance of the bee for food sustainability. Pictured above is the field leading up to the hive which held an interactive experience for visitors to see the life of a bee.

The United Arab Emirates

IMG_1775The UAE will play host to the 2020 Expo so naturally, they went above and beyond the call of duty. Above is a corridor that visitors find when first entering the pavilion. In each of the black boxes was a hologram of one of the UAE’s contributions to the world. Inside was a 20 minute film highlighting the struggles of life in the desert and the resiliency of the country’s people to rise above the struggles. After two more exhibits, there was a 10 minute film highlighting Expo 2020.

Overall, it has been an incredible experience so far. Again, I wish I had time to explain my entire experience in this one post, but more to come next time. Thanks for reading.

2 Comments

  1. What an incredible experience! I’m so jealous. This is such a once in a lifetime opportunity and how amazing that you got to participate in it. It’s so important that we rethink our food and I’m thankful that there was an expo like it. But one does have to wonder, how much did it cost and how much energy was used in it’s construction/set up? It was well worth the read and I’m sure all the country’s exhibitions stood on their own merit. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Yes, one does have to consider the energy and resources it took to create such a massive attraction.. One also must consider what is going to happen to the site when the Expo is over. Does it become an expo ghost town of wasted space? Is more energy exerted in tearing down these perfectly good structures? Or are they repurposed into something that will last for many years to come? It will certainly be interesting to see how it plays out.

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