photo by Dirk Verwoerd: Italy pavilion
In about a month, the World Expo in Milan will come to an end. If you haven’t visited the Expo Milano yet, now is the time to grab your bags and fly to Milan!
As a web editor of MIMOA I recently published many of the pavilions that have been built for the Expo 2015: with special thanks to one of our contributors Nazar for uploading all the information on the pavilions and to the Dutch photographer Dirk Verwoerd for adding all impressive photos.
Then suddenly I was asked to join a weekend trip to Milan with the Expo 2015 as the highlight of the visit. I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I knew the Dutch pavilion of the Expo 2000 in Hanover (MVRDV), the Atomium in Brussels (Expo 1958) and of course, the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Expo 1889). But what are these world exhibitions for? Why would 20 million people visit an area of 1,1 square kilometres to visit a temporary exhibition? It was about time to go there and explore the phenomenon!
Our trip consisted of an evening and a full day at the Expo, as well as one full day in the city, which was a perfect combination. The evening tickets are way cheaper than the day tickets and the worse crowds are gone at night. Coming from the Metro station, you need to walk through a long walkway before you reach the entrance of the Expo. Immediately, I was amazed by the immense scale of the Expo. The first pavilions encountered at the entrance were the main pavilions “Expo Centre” and “Pavilion Zero”, which tower above the Expo, resembling hills or thatched baskets. This was going to be a night to remember.
photo by Dirk Verwoerd: Czech pavilion during the day
photo by Benjo Zwarteveen: Czech pavilion bar at night
All the pavilions have their entrance at the main 1km long boulevard, which at night becomes a boulevard of lights, when the pavilions are lit up in many different colours. The Czech pavilion bar gave the impression of Hopper’s Nighthawks Bar 1942; the Corean pavilion, which is cold as ice during daytime was lit in all the colours possible, just as the pavilion of Angola. The pavilions of the Emirates and Bahrein were quiet and serene as a desert at night. The UK pavilion had its impressive beehive lit up in the aluminium construction. That Thursday night we’ve only got a general impression of the scale of the Expo. When we heard the sound of the bass and the greatest hits from the last two decades, we were not surprised that these sounds came from the Dutch pavilion, which was definitely the place to be at night, with a cold Heineken in your hand.
photo by Dirk Verwoerd: UK pavilion lit up by night
On Friday we went sightseeing in Milan. Starting with a coffee at the Piazza Gae Aulenti, in the business district at Porta Garibaldi, then a short Metro ride to the Castle of the Sforza’s (Castello Sforzesco) and the Expo Gate at Cairoli Square. We visited the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The roof of the Duomo is really a must-see! The views from the roof are amazing and the architectural details and statues on the roof are truly stunning. From the Duomo we walked to the “Naviglio”, an old canal south of the city centre, where, at night, the atmosphere is great and the food delicious (try Luca e Andrea, amazing pasta dishes).
photo by Benjo Zwarteveen: view towards Velasca tower from the Duomo
On Saturday, we dared to go to the Expo site again, to explore it even more, to visit the renowned pavilion of Japan and to find out more about the theme of the Expo: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. We were not the only ones, our friends at the Dutch pavilion said there had been 230.000 visitors that Saturday. Fortunately we brought some playing cards to entertain ourselves during the long waiting lines. Once we were inside, we headed straight towards the Japan pavilion. But the time we had to wait was 4 (!) hours, which would be a real waste of time. Instead of standing in line for half a day, we visited the pavilions of Russia, Austria, Nepal, Belgium and the UK.
Visiting these pavilions made me understand what the purpose of the Expo was and how the different countries had their own way of interpreting this theme. The UK and Austria had very specific topics, the bees and trees, both displayed in a fascinating way. Russia was focused on displaying the greatness of their country, claiming to have unlimited food resources. In the pavilion of Nepal, it seemed like nothing had anything to do with the theme of the Expo. Belgium focused on the technology of food production and was in my eyes one of the pavilions that really understood the theme and how to display it. If you really want to know more about the theme of the Expo and how each country deals with this theme, you definitely need more than one day.
Despite the crowds, the sometimes highly commercial ambience and McDonalds having a pavilion right at the main boulevard (so much for healthy food), it was a great experience to visit the Expo and I would recommend it to everyone. The days are full of events happening on the boulevard, dances, music, even a running competition. The pavilions are beautiful, sometimes a bit over the top. At night the Expo is really mesmerizing, with all the pavilions lit up and with the light and water show at the “Tree of Life”. Don’t forget to visit the city centre of Milan and do enjoy your afterparty at the Dutch pavilion, the best!
We've bundled the most interesting pavilions in a Mi guide for you, which you can download here for free: