Milan is no stranger to the World Expo, having previously hosted in 1906 (with two previous major exhibitions in 1881 and 1894). For the city’s inaugural world expo, Teatro La Scala offered heads of state and distinguished guests a gala event that included Sport, a ballet by Marengo and Manzotti.
Flash forward to 2015 and to a new globally-relevant theme, Feeding the Planet, Energy For Life. The title refers to how culture, innovation, technology, tradition and creativity relate to food and diet, with the key focus on the right to healthy, secure, and sufficient food for everyone.
With two main roads along the Expo route – Cardo and Decumanus (democratic: all pavilions face the street in a democratic fashion) – visitors are encouraged to check out 53 self-built pavilions representing over 140 countries (with nine themed Clusters).
The streets are named following the two main thoroughfares of ancient Roman camps. Although Milan’s designed with a circular street pattern, many Italian and European cities use the two-main-road plan; Expo planners mimicked the layout in order to give the site a town-like, community feel.
The Cardo runs from North to South while Decumanus connects the Expo Centre with Mediterranean hill, major landmarks to help with orientation.
A 4.5 km (2.8 miles) long canal encircles Expo. Where Cardo and Decumanus intersect, you’ll find the Piazza Italia, site of the 35 meter (115 foot) tall Tree of Life, a colourful structure that comes alive several times a day with a music and light show. Piazza Italia’s position is strategically located where Italy meets the world.
The site’s built between the Milan Trade fair in Rho, a prison, a large postal sorting office and several motorways, straddling the border between Milan, Rho, and Pero city areas.
It’s convenient to get here from the city center on the red M1 Metro line (roughly 1/2 hour from Duomo stop) as well as via urban and regional train lines.
As you approach the Expo entrance, it’s hard to gauge just how much you’ll be able to cover in a day. Be forewarned: it’s IMMENSE!
Comfy walking shoes and a refillable water bottle are musts.
Expo is meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with lots of food and rest stops along the 1.5 km (just under a mile) stretch. Stylish, translucent Milan-designed Kartell chairs and loungers are found amongst patches of urban farms, bringing the theme of agriculture and sustainability into focus.
Pavilions offer everything from eco-related technology and water management systems to cultural gems and history.
We recommend an afternoon start to see the fair both during the day and at night when the pavilions liven with a variety of lighting and eye-catching displays.
Some of our favourite pavilions include Chile, Austria, UK and Hungary.
– Over 150 onsite restaurants (explore Italian cuisine through every one of its regions at Eataly)
– Estimated peaks of 250k visitors/day
– 600 soldiers on duty in both Milan and at Expo for security
– Pavilions 100% recyclable
– 53 countries with their own pavilion
– Remaining countries have a spot inside the nine themed Clusters
– 8 million tickets sold and counting
– 20 million expected between May and October
– Open daily from 10 am to 11 pm
– An eight-hour visit equates to 5% of site seen — it’s THAT big!
– Arid Zones
– Islands, Sea and Food
– Cocoa and Chocolate
– Fruits and legumes
– Cereals and Tubers
Following Milan, the next World Expo is set to take place in Dubai in 2020. More photos of Expo Milano and Milan sights can be found here.
We attended Expo Milano as accredited media. Opinions, as always, are our own.