Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I have been intended to write this post actually one year and few months ago, but for a series of circumstances, it simply never happened.

Last year, for about half a year, a quite big area of Milan has been transformed into a gigantic world exhibition about food sustainability. This has been a very big thing for Italy and in Italy. Every time we were there, there was no talk that didn't include the world "Expo" and everyone wanted to go and check it out.
At the end, we decided to peek a look as well. After all, we are both interested in both food and sustainability.
Living abroad, I was having the opportunity to actually get a quite decent discount on the tickets, but the procedure for getting it was a sphinx riddle.
Nevertheless, with only one kid, we took the train, we conveniently arrived at the station, got the ticket and entered this "city" in the city, crowded with people, in a very warm august.
The expo decumano crowded with people
In order to be able to visit it properly, I think one would have needed at least a month.
Almost every nation on Earth (except all the Nordic countries - so that noone in Sweden has a clue what this is about) had built up a gigantic pavilion or at least some form of exhibition space showing off.
I think it mostly became a showing off, not of food neither of sustainability. It was beautiful, interesting, that was the red thread around the whole place and for each country, but it seemed mostly like each pavilion was pushing for getting more tourists. But maybe that was the goal of it?
Big pavilion are sticking out at the horizon
We had no big preparation for the day, so we decided just based on pure inspiration where to head.
A copy of Milan's symbol: the golden virgin statue on top of the Dome
The great thing was that during the whole afternoon, considering how warmth it was, we had the opportunity to refill our water bottles thanks to free distribution machine. That was a blessing, but also took a lot of time since every station had often a little queue.
And talking of queue, depending of the pavilion, there were interesting queues to face.
We gave up (although by having a kid we had often faster routes) visiting few pavilions, including the most popular one of them all, the one of Japan.
We did visit few countries I don't even remember the name, some from the far east (maybe Polinesia?) some from the middle east.
We managed to go into the one from Marocco, Spain, European Union (which was actually the most educational, with a little movie with special effects), walk through the common thematic areas from the African countries... but for absorbing everything time was definitely not enough.

Pavilion Zero
Some of the pavilions were having impressive shapes and design. This is the one from Ungary.
The interior of the Ungarian pavilion

The effort put by each country could vary quite much (I guess budget made the difference), but everyone made surely an attempt to stick out.
Pavilion from USA
Are we really in Milan? Qatar's pavilion
I don't remember :-( Clearly something from East?

China, or part of its pavilion.
One of the hope I was personally having was that it would have been possible to taste more food.
In reality, this was very limited. In the different pavilions it was often possible to buy some product specific from the country, in some others it was possible to eat there. But both options were far from being cheap. 
We did buy some random food in one of the many stands from which one could try some extravagant fast food variation, but we were still hungry and had the need for a proper meal.
Tasting chocolate at the Lindt pavilion
At the Emilia Romagna section
Eating becoming quite an interesting project. Thank God we landed at Eataly which offered as many restaurants as italian regions, with specialities from each of them. Problem was that it was pretty crowded and the seating was not exactly optimal (and we had a stroller with a little boy in it).
Anyway, we managed to quickly eat a quite nice meal, for a decent price.
Choosing was though quite a problem. I could have been eating a dish from each region/restaurant!

The future supermarket?

A taste from the future
As the exhibition should be about food and sustainability, we got attracted by visiting a supermarket and other few interesting items that were spread a little bit everywhere.
The supermarket was quite interesting, but it didn't shock me that much. Although there was an attempt to bring up more organic food and to have some interesting display capability, I would have expected something even more futuristic than just a fancy screen?

An attempt to have a proper recycling system for such an event!
Algae Folly. New proteins?

Vertical farm
So, is the future going to be these modern nanotechnologies related way of cultivating some form of food, or are we, especially as Italians, going to stick with our traditions and our traditional food as the one presented at the Expo?
Who knows. I know though that the whole Expo is now quite a desert. And this is a pity considering the amount of infrastructure, how big the area is and what possibilities of learning and exploring there were. I would have made it quite a permanent fair, if it wouldn't be that expensive, I guess, to maintain each pavilion. 
Though, I guess the whole area right now is not there without any cost - although I know that there are plans for reusing part of it.
This summer we decided to pay a visit to it, since the Children's thematic park was still there.
The atmosphere was though completely different than the one from the year before. No more crowds, a form of desolation when looking at the whole Expo and a feeling of nostalgia all over.

Cascina Triulza

Observing the old Expo area from distance

Where is everyone?
The children's park was quite interesting and well done. Probably best to target kids in primary school, but still I think it was quite ok for Isabella to be there, although she didn't grasp so much of the messages that wanted to be passed over through the park.
It was a lot about nature, energy and environment.
One could smell different herbs, understand the richness of water, exchanging drawings with unknown kids by fishing them up from a pond, and finally observing how one creates energy when using bikes... among other things.

Bikes for energy!
As it happened the year before, we managed to miss just for a tiny bit the show of the Tree of Life, which will be the symbol of the Expo from the years to come.
This time though, we went close to it and I actually found it magnificent!

Observing the surroundings. The tree of life on the horizon.

The tree of life

Under the tree of life
The big pity of our second visit was that from the children's park to the tree, one needs to walk. A lot. With kids. Among ponds and sluices. In the heat, with mosquitoes, no shadow, no trees, no wind.
Let's say that there was plenty of whining and it was not the best part of the visit!

I'd hope, but here maybe I am just a dreamer, that the whole area won't be forgotten and small things, as the path I have just mentioned, improved, to keep the memory of what all of this was, especially for those that didn't even have a clue it existed (namely all the Nordics who missed the great Italian food culture concentrated in once place :-D).

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