Expo Milano 2015: A review of the world’s biggest international food fair

Last week I visited the Expo Milano 2015. Knowing I eat, sleep and dream of food pretty much all day, every day, the boyfriend bought me two tickets + full day all expenses paid to Expo for my birthday. He knows me oh so well! :D <3

Over the past year there has been quite a lot of hype regarding the Expo Milano 2015 fair. From the beginning people from around the world – particularly foodies – have been excited about the large scale international food exhibition. Nowhere has there ever been such a big foodie fair involving so many different countries open to the public and Italy was proud to be the one hosting it.

Nevertheless, the world has also been holding its breath. The event was first clouded with airs of skepticism when marketing campaigns came across as unclear and inconsistent. The Expo Milano 2015 theme changed from “Nutrition” to “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” to allow for big sponsors such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola to help fund the event (or at least that’s the assumption). Furthermore there was little information in English, and little information at all about what to expect from the event. To make matters worse, six months out from opening day, information regarding corruption scandals among businessmen involved in Expo projects was leaked and Italy was being criticized for its disogranization and unethical practices.

Then upon opening day heavy No Expo and Black Bloc riots broke out in downtown Milan protesting against Expo and setting fire to citizens cars in the street. The first week received mixed reviews from visitors who were disappointed that not all the pavilions were ready. Since then, many people have debated about whether Expo is even worth visiting due to its confusing message and misleading marketing. Let’s just say with both negative and positive criticism in the air, it’s been a strange event to understand.

Food deities  from Expo Milano 2015

Food deities welcome you into the Expo site

Tree of Life Expo Milano 2015

The famous ‘Tree of Life’ performs a musical fountain/flower/light show every hour

I too was on the fence about whether Expo Milano 2015 was a good or bad thing. Still, I wanted to experience Expo for its international scene, architectural creativity, and of course, the food. It’s not often that one can taste food from around the world all in one day in a building made of vertical gardens and mirrors and wooden wave formations. Plus, living only a couple hours from Milan, I figured why not go?

Expo Milano 2015: To go or not to go?

The Pros

  • It’s impossible to go to Expo and not be amazed by the incredible structures built to host each country’s pavilion. I loved China’s wave-like wooden structures surrounded by a field of marigolds. The multicolored glittering Ecuador pavilion was simply captivating as were the vertical gardens of Israel. Nepal’s pavilion was simple, yet the most heartfelt. The temple structure received a lot of help after Nepal’s earthquake interrupted their Expo construction. The Austrian ‘pavilion’ takes the cake for being the most creative and resourceful: forest of trees in a misty air advertising Austrians main industry: air.
  • Most of the information pavilions presented was easy to grasp and visually appealing. Many pavilions use videos to get their message across, often presenting the information about their agriculture through the story of a fictitious family.
  • The layout was simple and easy to navigate with a long, wide road lined with pavilions on either side. It’s impossible to get lost.
  • The emphasis was on education, not pigging out. I liked that every pavilion presented the information about their country’s food and agriculture first and that the eating part was only at the end, often in a separate area from the pavilion itself. The emphasis was less on an all you can eat buffet and more on the message.
  • It was easy to get to the Expo site. There was a train that took us directly to Expo, so we didn’t have to take a bus or try to find parking.
  • The event was certainly not understaffed! There were volunteers and Expo workers just about everywhere.
  • You could refill your water bottles with water for free from the many water pod stations throughout the park. I thought it was not only a nice way of making sure visitors stayed hydrated and happy, but also a way of underlining the theme of “feeding the planet”.
Nepal's Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

Nepal pavilion packed with people interested in seeing how it all turned out despite the earthquake event

Isreal pavilion Expo milano 2015

Israels vertical garden presenting the irrigation drip system the country invented, allowing agriculture to flourish despite the arid climate

Spain pavilion Expo Milano 2015

Inside Spain’s pavilion, visitors can watch typical dishes being made on video screen table

The Cons

  • My biggest criticism of the entire event was its lack of continuity and unity. I felt like some pavilions really presented the theme well, while others were quite bare. I think the producers of Expo should have better distributed funds to make sure that all countries were represented equally and that the message of “feeding the planet” was presented in every pavilion. 
  • Although the layout was relatively simple (one big road with pavilions on either side), I still felt confused about the positioning of the pavilions and I was constantly having to look at the map to understand where other pavilions were. Some countries were grouped into clusters, like “coffee” or “rice”, yet others were simply standing on their own. For example, I didn’t understand why Austria was located next to Chile. I wish they had organized and grouped countries into more agricultural clusters, by geographical region or at the very least in alphabetical order so that you could find pavilions better.
  • Some pavilions were sponsor pavilions, such as McDonalds or Enel. I thought this interrupted the theme of expo and took away from the spirit of the event.
  • In general, the food was a bit expensive. Most plates ranged from 7-15 euros and the portions were small. I wish there had been more tasting plates so that I could have tried a little bit of everything from each country but most pavilions only offered single dishes so you had to spend around 20 euros to try more than one thing.
Nepal pavilion food, expo milano 2015

Potato samosa, pork ‘mo-mo’ dumplings and mango-yogurt Lassi are among the dishes visitors can sample from the Nepal pavilion

Austria pavilion Expo Milano 2015

Austria’s forest ‘pavilion’ using simple perspective word art to display their message

China Pavilion Expo Milano 2015

China’s wave-like wooden structures and marigold fields created one of the more impressive pavilions

Tips for Visiting EXPO Milano 2015

You can buy a full day or night tickets. Full day tickets cost 39 euro, while night tickets are only 5 euro. You can also opt for a multiple day pass. Once you buy your ticket, you must confirm online the day you would like to visit. See the Expo site for more info.

If you live in Italy and have a Socio Card for the Coop supermarket you can buy tickets at a 30% discount. Just present your members card at the cashiers desk.

Getting There
The best way to get to Expo is by train. Just go to the Trenitalia site and choose Rho-Fiera Milano (which takes you directly into the EXPO site) as your destination. You will probably have to change trains in Milano Centrale.

What to See

  • Pavilions I really <3 loved <3 : Israel, Spain, The U.S., Austria, and China
  • Pavilions I wasn’t so crazy about: Qatar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia
  • Before you go, check the events calendar to see what special events are going on.

Have you been to Expo Milano 2015? What did you think? Leave your thoughts below! 

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