I’ve been hearing reviews of the Milano EXPO (a.k.a. World’s Fair) from friends and the reviews have been all over the map. People loved it, people hated it. Truth is, just like everyone has different styles of traveling- people expect different things from a huge event like the EXPO.
Personally, I am not a fan of large crowded spaces. Small intimate groups are my happy place for sure. I also am not a fan of highly commercial venues- so before I went, I had these things in mind. But since I live here and my friend was visiting from the US, of course we had to go check it out!
I am not an EXPO pro, by any means- but after my initial visit here are some thoughts and tips.
- We went first thing in the morning and the lines were very minimal for the first few hours. It got more busy as the day went on.
- It is an A.D.D. wonderland- full sensory overload. It’s easy to forget what you are doing, and wander off to the next shiny thing… The smartest thing we did was take a minute to mark the map of places we knew we wanted to visit for sure, which helped us stay on track.
- I had the perfect travel buddy who was interested in the same things I was, namely getting the lay of the land for future visits, not standing in lines, and checking out the food scene. The place is huge, and you need more than 1 day to fully explore and enjoy it.
- Our favorite thing of the whole day (besides snacking) was admiring the architecture of the pavilions- they are truly spectacular. Because we were avoiding lines, we only went into about 10 of the pavilions and too many of them felt like we were trapped in an infomercial. Those were disappointing and I’m hoping when I go back I’ll find some that are as interesting on the inside as they are on the outside.
- It’s about a 10 min walk from the metro exit to the entrance of the EXPO.
- You go through the security line first (they allow water bottles FYI) and then you scan your ticket and head in.
- There are info centers at the edge of where the pavilions start and they have maps in all languages. There are also well marked volunteers everywhere to help if you have questions.
- The EXPO campus is laid out with a wide promenade down the middle and pavilions down each side.There are more things behind the pavilions that are worth checking out, and they aren’t always visible from the promenade.
There are so many beautiful plants, gardens and lush shady spaces to relax or picnic, which was a nice surprise. Many pavilions have shady patio restaurants or rooftop terraces.
- The USA pavilion has a misting area to cool off in out front of their building, I imagine it will be a popular place to hang out as the summer heat arrives.
- There are free water bottle refill stations scattered throughout the park + nice restrooms as well.
- There are chilled lockers for rent in Lithuania for cold and frozen food (some of the pavilions sold food to take home)
- In “Let’s Toast” cafes scattered throughout the EXPO there are free charging stations- such a nice touch!
Mint tea in Morocco
Snacks in Slovenia
Food varied widely in quality- some of our favorites were:
- Israel: Loved the rose water frozen yogurt with walnuts + apricots. Picnic baskets available to be filled and checked out, we saw people eating on the lovely lawn nearby.
- Spain: Nice shady patio area with seating next to the restaurant- serving cocktails, sangria + tapas.
- Slovenia: Try local specialties like the dessert Prekmurska gibanica.
- Monaco: The staff encouraged us to try the Barbajuans (a type of fritter usually stuffed with chard, cheese and ground meat) with a glass of champagne, they were delicious and one of our favorite things we tried all day!
- Morocco: stop for some fresh mint tea and an appetizer sampler
- Holland has an awesome food truck area that I look forward to checking out more next time.
- Turkey: nice tea + coffee bar with a shady sitting area and in back, a free Turkish coffee and small tasting of pistachio baklava.
- Food can get expensive, choose wisely.
- Many of the restaurants sit in back or to the rear of the pavilions.
- There are many shady spots and picnic areas if you get hot or want to grab a sandwich and relax in the shade.
- Bring and refill your own water bottle (free refill stations are scattered throughout the complex, including acqua frizzante!)
- USA Pavilion has a misting area to cool off in out front of their building.
- There are nice bathrooms and they are clearly marked on the map. Several of the pavilions also had bathrooms you could use.
- Get the free map and take a minute to mark the countries you know you really want to visit.
- EXPO App on iPhone was nice for pre-planning, but the old school paper map was most helpful on the day of our visit.
- Season pass holders- make sure to have ID with you.
- Pavilions have recipes from their country printed onto cards, which are free to collect and would make a fun souvenir of your trip.
- The bookstore has great books and souvenirs for kids and adults including some beautiful cookbooks, gardening resources + a “Short Guide” to the Expo for 5 euro that is a nice overview of each area, and other details. Great if you are returning for another visit.
Next time I go, I also plan to spend some time in the Italian pavilion, as will check out the many Italian restaurants and food booths. I skipped them this time around, but know I will find some delicious things there…
Have you been to the EXPO? What did you see and love that I should check out?
Ciao for now-