Milan World's Fair 2015 Mirea Cartabbia
A personalised can of coke made for OneEurope at the Coca Cola pavilion

The 145 countries attending the exhibition have worked on the chosen theme 'Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life' and showcased their ideas and solutions over the 6 months (from the 1st of May to the end of October 2015) of the Expo.

In the last two months, the exhibition has had some very good results. The number of attendees is growing and the record was reached on Saturday 12th September with 245,000 people visiting the Expo (this includes the workers in the Expo and the accreditations, for example for journalists).

But what can you actually see inside the Expo? And why are so many people interested in it? I really was not sure what to expect, therefore I decided to experience it personally and to attend the event. 

Entering the Expo is like entering a bazaar completely packed. People and things (not only food but also all kind of items for sale) are everywhere. Consequently, the movement inside the pavilions is very difficult. The loud noise of children and adults is sometimes intolerable and people who try to skip the queue provoke even louder complaints: “You see, things like that only happen in Italy!”. This is the most common sentence that a visitor who can speak Italian will hear at the Expo.

I visited the exhibition on Tuesday 15th of September and the notes that follow below are just a short summary of my experience, with some advice if any of the readers want to attend the event (if you are interested in some of the scandals behind it, click here).

QUEUES

The queues are the first thing that the attendee will spot inside the fair: waiting lines at the main entrances, waiting lines at the pavilions, waiting lines at the toilets, waiting line at McDonald’s. At the end of August, when the organizers became aware of the problem, they decided to extend the entrance using two of the four main doors beginning with 9 a.m., instead of 10 a.m.

The action was completely useless, because the pavilions continue to open at 10 a.m. or even later, and the side effect is that even the first visitors of the day have to wait in line for an hour, before they can visit one of the structures.

Nobody denies that in the last weeks the number of attendees was high, but for many pavilions the waiting queue is constantly around 2 hours or even more. The long waiting times are even more surprising considering that the number of 250,000 attendees (the record, as I have written before) should have been the norm for a Saturday, according to the forecasts made before the beginning of the event by Giuseppe Sala, the Commissioner of the Government of Italy for Expo Milan 2015.

It can be rather frustrating when you've purchased the ticket for 39€ to then only visit a few pavilions because the queue is too long and time consuming. This aspect should have definitely been organised better.

PAVILIONS

The pavilions are the centre of the exhibition, where the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life should have been developed by each country or sponsor.

Unfortunately, not all of them have done their homework. For example, the Turkmenistan created a gross celebration of the president of the country, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The presence of the president is everywhere and in every form: the gigantic face of the president, the president who greets, the president on his horse. Morocco and Kazakhstan are not far off. On the list of the non-sense pavilions, visitors can also find the Don Bosco pavilion, where there is no food but a presentation of the religious order.

One of the most original ideas comes from the Swiss pavilion. Along to the interesting and interactive exhibition, Swiss has done an experiment. They built four towers and filled each of them at the beginning of the event with one of the following products: coffee, salt, apples and water. The amount of goods should have been sufficient until the end of the exhibition, if every visitor of the tower would have respected the rules (basically just take one good in each tower). Instead, the towers have already run out of the water and the apples. The message, that the towers want to send, is simple and clear: the food is sufficient for all the inhabitants of the world, but only if we learn to take what we need, instead of eating too much and without caring for the others.

The European Union pavilion has done a good job too. It is presented a short animation about agriculture and technology in Europe and nearby countries. It is a small exhibition that shows the achievements and the future objectives of the European Union, regarding the theme of Feeding the Planet.

I feel that I should also mention the Coca Cola Company because in my last article about the Expo I have written that “two of the main sponsors of the event are Coca Cola and McDonald’s, two multinational companies that can hardly be associated with a healthy lifestyle”. Honestly, the Coca Cola Company has done a really good job: not only it has developed a prototype of a new bottle, called PlantBottle, made entirely of recycling materials, but also the pavilion itself will be used as a basketball camp, after the end of the fair. For art lovers, inside the structure an Andy Warhol painting is displayed.

The Tree of Life, a symbol of the Expo and an expression of the concept of the Italian pavilion.

Other nice pavilions in my opinion are Japan, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Save the Children, Pavilion 0 and Vatican (The Last Supper painted by Tintoretto is showed there).

By the way, the stamp was stolen in the Gabon pavilion (for 3.50€ visitors can buy a fake passport and get the stamps of each pavilion on it). Every Italian that noticed the sign indicating the theft, said: “You see, things like this only happen in Italy!”

PRICE

Since the main point of the Expo is not to overeat, but to reflect on more sustainable solutions for the planet, it’s understanding and right that the pavilions do not give food away for free to the many attendees. However, the prices for a meal inside the fair are not really affordable, especially for families.

I can give some example. A dish of Iberian ham costs 35€, around 15€ for a regular burger in the USA pavilion and in one of the Japanese restaurants a dish can cost up to 200€. The consequence is that many restaurants are quite empty and in the end people tend to choose one of the few restaurants with affordable prices: McDonald’s.

Considering the huge variety of food available and the idea behind the event, it’s a pity same visitors end up eating the same old Big Mac.