Milan Expo has been the most anticipated world’s fair in decades. This year’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and it’s a fun, yet educational way to learn about sustainability and food security. With 145 countries represented at the 1.1 million square meter exhibition space, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to even start once you find yourself on the other side of the entry gates. While I plan to attend Milan Expo 2015 several times over the six months that it runs (from May 1 through October 31, 2015), I’ve rounded up some of my favorite things to see and do from my first visit:
1. Make Your Own Personalized Jar of Nutella
Nutella is an iconic Italian brand; one that always appears on the lists of top souvenirs to bring home from Italy. The hazelnut spread is so popular, in fact, that one jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds throughout the world. Well, now your Nutella souvenir from Italy just got a bit cooler. You can stop by the Nutella Concept Bar and print your very own personalized label for free. Purchase a jar of Nutella for €5.50 and the staff will affix your personalized label for you.
2. Eat New England Lobster Rolls
The food truck has become synonymous with American cuisine and the USA Pavilion is embracing it with their theme American Food 2.0. The Food Truck Nation is an edible exhibit with six food trucks serving up American classics like hamburgers, New England lobster rolls, BBQ ribs and good ‘ol fashioned apple pies. Each week of Milan Expo different states will be celebrated as regional foods are showcased at the trucks.
If American food trucks aren’t your thing, you can also eat every from sushi at the Japan pavilion to tagine at the Morocco Pavilion.
3. Dance to the Tree of Life Fountain Show
At the center of the Lake Arena, the largest open space for Milan Expo visitors to relax, is the Tree of Life. It’s a work of art itself, but you’ll want to stop by for the show. Every hour on the hour, the Tree of Life has fireworks and other special effects as fountains dance in a concentric circles around it to the tunes of five contemporary Italian composers. The daytime shows last 3 and a half minutes, while the spectacular nighttime show is 12 minutes long and is set to a special suite of music composed by Maestro Roberto Cacciapaglia especially for Milan Expo.
4. Sample Local Specialties at Show Cooking Demonstrations
Food knows no language barriers and that is especially true at Milan Expo where you can quite literally eat your way around the world. While many pavilions have restaurants and stands where you can purchase local specialties, a number of pavilions also have show cooking demonstrations where you can learn to make the recipes and sample the food. And did I mention its free?
While I might be biased as Italy is my adopted home, the Love It Real Italian Food pavilion should be on your to do list while at Milan Expo. You can taste regional products like cheese, olive oil, yogurt and wine as well as join the short show cooking demonstrations multiple times daily. You’ll get to taste delicious dishes from top restaurants in Italy.
Some of the other pavilions also offering show cooking demonstrations with samples are the Switzerland Pavilion where you can make your own Swiss chocolate bar to take home and tagine and other Moroccan specialties at the Morocco Pavilion. These events are not typically on the daily program, so just be on the lookout for show cooking demonstrations as you wander around.
5. Jam Out at a Concert
Germany’s “Field of Ideas” pavilion has the motto “Be active” and they showcase that sound is a big part of being active. A outdoor concert venue features German musicians throughout Milan Expo and the wide open Fields of Music space encourages concert goers to get up and dance as performs rock out. Check out the event calendar for daily events and concert times.
6. Admire the Works of Art
Expo isn’t just all about food. Walk the main promenade, called the Decumano, to admire the exhibition of works by Italian sculptor Giuliano Tomaino. The exhibition is supposed to represent the disenchantment of childhood, but I found the friendly looking rocking horses whimsical.
7. Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Coca-Cola
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Coca-Cola with an interactive journey at the Coca-Cola Pavilion. The exhibition takes visitors through the company’s deep roots in Italy, its sustainability model and how the company reduces the impact its products have on climate change. But it’s such a fun exhibit with unique works by artists such as Andy Warhol that you hardly realize you’re actually learning something. After Expo, the pavilion will be recycled and become a covered basketball court for the local comunity to promote sport and physical activities.
8. Gawk at the Architecture
In days gone by structures like the Eiffel Tower and the Atomium were created as entrances to the World’s Fair. While Milan Expo won’t be producing the next Space Needle, the pavilions built to house the 2015 Expo are impressive. Qatar looks like a palace, Ecuador dazzles with colorful strings of beads hanging over the pavilion, and Russia has a giant mirror that juts out above giving you a cool space to take a unique selfie.
9. Inspire Your Wanderlust
With 145 countries represented, you can travel the world at Milan Expo! Stop by Brazil to jump and play on the net above the exhibition space (one of the top attractions at Expo) and after all that jumping around, quench your thirst with a Brazilian smoothie.
Visit Switzerland and access their four tours filled with water, salt, coffee and apples. Once at the top, visitors can take as much as they want, but remember that these resources are limited and have to last the six months that Expo runs. The exhibition teaches us that if we all take some, we might not be leaving anything for the next generation.
Take a trip to the rainforest at the Malaysia Pavilion, enjoy a Turkish coffee or tea with typical baklava at the Turkey Pavilion, or taste Slovenian beer at the Slovenia Pavilion. No matter which pavilion you end up in, you’ll surely leave inspired to head to these countries on your next trip.
If it all still seems overwhelming, Milan Expo offers daily guided tours that will show you the best of the best pavilions and help you understand what it is all about in a 3-hour tour with an expert guide. The English tours take place daily at 10:45am, 11:30am, 2:45pm and 3:30pm. Tours must be booked in advance by emailing [email protected] and cost €20 per adult and €12 per child under 14 or seniors over 65.
Know Before You Go
- Bring an empty water bottle. There are free water refill stations located around the exposition site. Otherwise bottled water costs €1.50 per bottle.
- There are also free charging stations located in Tracce self-service restaurants. The charging stations have individual lockers with keys where you can leave your device to charge and come back to get it later.
- There is a free People Mover shuttle bus that runs every 5 – 7 minutes and shuttles you from one end of Expo to the other. Look for the People Mover shuttle signs located along the Decumano to reach the pick-up locations.