Two high-speed trains, four metros, and a lot of steps took us to Expo 2015, “Feeding the Earth, Energy for Life”, in Milano (Milan) and back. Never having been to Milano or a Universal Exhibition (world’s fair), we were excited for this adventure. A Universal Exhibition occurs every five years in a different country. Thanks to previous world fairs, we have the Eiffel Tower, St. Louis Arch, and Seattle Space Needle. Italy’s Expo 2015 hosted145 countries on the 490-acre site. An Expo representative in Firenze told us the best pavilions to visit and which metros to take from Milano to the expo site.
The Tree of Life, the symbol for the Italian Pavilion, is a tall wooden structure surrounded by water jets in the middle of a lake. Periodically, Italian music plays, the structure lights up, flowers bloom out of the stalk and water shoots up in time to the music.
The good news is we experienced something unique to us, visited a new city, and had the satisfaction of figuring out a new metro system. Although we didn’t see much of the city, we did see the beautiful Milano train station.
We also saw some interesting exhibits, all focused on sustainable energy and feeding the planet. The Chinese pavilion was one of the largest and most impressive.
Beautiful displays of Chinese art and crafts lined the walkway into the exhibit. At the end we walked on a ramp around a huge light display that changed colors and showed images of flying birds and galloping horses as music played.
We were the only English-speaking visitors at the United Arab Emirates pavilion, so we had our own guide to introduce us to the displays.
The UAE pavilion used high-level technology to tell their story. Along the entry to the exhibit were touch screens using holograms in both Italian and English to present the ecological challenges the exhibit would address.
We saw a 180-degree movie that featured a young girl traveling back in time to learn the importance of water to her country. At the climax of the movie, the wall opened and we were invited to walk into another room that had virtual images of the characters from the movie talking with us. The UAE will host the 2020 World’s Fair in Dubai.
The Turkmenistan exhibit was one of the smaller pavilions, but we wanted to see it because a friend’s daughter was in the Peace Corps there.
The bad news is the expo was over-populated. We stood in long lines everywhere; an hour to get into the Chinese exhibit and an hour and half to get into the UAE exhibit. We felt like we were experiencing the challenges of expanding populations that the exhibits were addressing.
In spite of the challenges, it was a great day, and we are glad we went. Walking home from the Firenze train station, we thought the local piazzas were not as congested as we had thought before our trip to Milano. The next day we hiked in a beautiful, quiet area of Firenze and enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch at one of our favorite Tuscan restaurants.
In the evening we strolled the area around the Duomo and discovered a three-day French market inspired by Paris’ Universal Expositions of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was a treat to be able to communicate with the French vendors.