If you think Milan is only about fashion and finance, well, think again. For six months, from May 1 to October 31, Italy’s second biggest city will host Expo Milano 2015, a world exposition and the destination event of the year for people who want to experience innovation, education and a few surprises. (Portions of Shanghai are still aglow from Expo 2010.) Held once every five years, the Expo is all about food culture and sustainability this go-around, which means you should prepare for a lot of table talk — and at least three full days in Milan this spring or summer.
While Expo 2015 seems to be on everybody’s lips, most people aren’t quite sure how to define it. Imagine a theme park that is all about cuisine — from its history and culture to futurology, intellectual debates and art — and is showcased via national pavilions, themed exhibitions, educational programs and various forms of entertainment. Now, picture said attraction as a multicultural village of more than 150 countries, corporations and non-profit participants who want to share their ideas on culinary culture. In a nutshell, that’s Expo 2015, a gastronomical oasis sitting about seven miles outside of downtown Milan.
Inspired by ancient Roman urban planning, the Expo is like a small city brimming with architectural structures that share unique interpretations of this year’s “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” theme. Walk the main thoroughfare to see country-influenced pavilions like the United States’ “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet,” a barn-like area celebrating everything from diversity to a love of food trucks; Bahrain’s cascading 21,527-square-foot section sharing the country’s agricultural history in “Archaeologies of Green”; and the home nation of Italy, of course, paying homage to its culinary history and tradition through “villages” dedicated to the country’s 20 regions and their food cultures.
Just in case country pavilions and designated “National Days” where chef events for a specific destination are programmed aren’t enough, the nearly half-mile Expo has several other not-to-be-missed pavilions, exhibitions and events. Two of these are Pavilion Zero, which takes a look at the history of food, and the Future Food District, a forward-looking sector managed by an MIT Senseable City Lab director.
The Expo will overlook geographic boundaries with the Clusters project; instead, nations will be brought together by a common gastronomic theme, be it rice, chocolate, coffee, fruit and spices. The forest-inspired Children’s Park is where future chefs can explore educational games and activities. And from May 13 through August 26, the whole family will be enthralled by Cirque du Soleil’s just-for-the-Expo Allavita! performance at the open-air theater.
The Game Plan
Does it sound like a lot? It is. If you were to visit each pavilion for just 30 minutes, your entire Expo experience would take several days to complete. To keep your sanity while sorting through the schedule, here’s what you should do: Buy your tickets in advance and bring a comfortable pair of shoes. All of the Expo’s participants and events are published on the official Expo 2015 website. Take the time to research your must-visit pavilions and can’t-miss special events. After you’ve done that, download the official Expo 2015 app so you will have all of that information in your pocket. Finally, accept the fact that you’ll probably change your mind about what to do after you feast your eyes on all that the Expo has to offer.