The world's largest show focused on answering arguably the planet's most urgent issue comes to Italy this May. The country's president, Matteo Renzi, and the host city, Milan, both have an awful lot to deliver.
The run up to the event has been beset by scandal and overrun deadlines, but as opening night approaches the city is in overdrive to be ready on time for the expectant visitors. This week Renzi announced on Twitter that the “Expo bet is won", the pavilions are "beautiful" and this is an achievement that “seemed impossible a year ago”.
So what’s all the fuss about? Here’s what you need to know about Milan Expo 2015…
1) What it’s all about
‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ is the theme of Expo 2015, and it will take place on a giant exhibition-cum-entertainment site, built along the lines of a Roman town. Part science lab, part gastronomic tour the Expo 2015 will be an interactive voyage through some serious challenges that we share on a global scale. Namely, balancing the world’s increasing food consumption with depleting natural resources. Lessons and insights into sustainability and food production connected to technological innovation will all be available for visitors to explore during their visit.
China pavilion, source: expo2015.org
2) How big it is
The massive six-month long Expo includes 70 corporate and country pavilions with involvement of more than 130 nations and organisations. The event is spread over one million square metres of surface area (that’s about 140 football pitches) and will attract 20 million visitors from around the world.
Expo 2015 map, source: expo2015.org
3) Why you should visit
The beauty of the World Exposition is the truly international aspect to this event. Over 90% of the countries in the world will be representing their different ideas on the Expo theme.
Some of the weird and wonderful design concepts include the Swiss pavilion, with four towers of ‘free for all’ food, whose dwindling stocks will reflect the planet’s finite resources. The UAE will have 12 metre high walls of rippled sand conveying the importance of the desert. Meanwhile the USA pavilion promises a vertical farm, the length of an American football field with forty-two varieties of fruit, vegetables, grains and herbs which will be harvested every two weeks during the event.
USA pavilion, source: expo2015.org
4) The mascot
It seems that nowadays no world event would be complete without its own (slightly oddly named) event mascot, and so here we present Milan Expo’s ‘Foody’. Created by Disney Italy and inspired by the paintings of Arcimboldo the mascot which is made up of 11 different 'food characters'. Keep your eyes peeled for 'Piera the Pear', 'Pomina the Apple', 'Max the Maize', 'Manghy the Mango' and friends.
Foody and friends, source: expo2015.org
5) What we’re excited about
There will be plenty of food for thought, from robotic supermarket shopping in the Future Food District, the planting and harvesting of vertical crops and driverless tractors ploughing the roof of the New Holland Agriculture pavilion. Not forgetting the symbol of Expo, a 37 metre high Tree of Life (see main photo) taking centre stage in the middle of Lake Arena with light and water shows.
New Holland Agriculture pavilion, source: expo2015.org
6) What else is cool
For a slice of performance art check out the Cirque du Soleil's new show and Expo exclusive, 'Allavita!' Set in the open air theatre from May 6 to August 23, a huge cast of international artists will interweave music and dance in a unique event inspired by the union between food and life.
7) For architecture lovers
All the pavilions on display have been specially designed by world leading architects. Visitors will get the chance to see the work of Norman Foster (UAE pavilion), Daniel Libeskind (Vanke), Carlo Ratti Associati (New Holland), Italo Rota (Kuwait), etc.
The national pavilions have their own green credentials too, from 'smog-eating panels' in Italy's pavilion, to France's walls of growing hops and whole fields of wheat courtesy of China. There is also Wolfgang Buttress' design for Britain, developed around the concept of a beehive and featuring a 40 metre long meadow.
UAE pavilion designed by Norman Foster, source: expo2015.org
8) What you can actually eat
For those of you who are feeling rather peckish after all this talk of lack of food fear not, there will of course be a gargantuan range of dining options on offer. Visitors will be spoilt for choice with over 150 international food outlets ranging from USA food trucks and Korean tacos, to the upmarket Italian delicatessen chain Eataly and full blown sit down restaurants fronted by celebrity chefs.
9) Where it is
The Expo 2015 site is located in Rho Fiera, some 6 miles north-west of Milan city centre, easily accessed by train, plane and car. From Milan city centre take the Metro red line and it’s only about 25 minutes travel time. Flexible Expo 2015 entrance tickets can be bought online, just confirm a date that suits nearer the time. The gates open at 10am and close at 11pm so there’s plenty of time to get your money’s worth on a day pass.
10) What else is happening in Milan during Expo
When you’ve had your fill of Swiss cheese, penetrated the earth’s crust in Pavilion Zero and marvelled at the 17 metre spherical throbbing beehive, there will be plenty of events to entice you back to the the city centre.
Expo 2015 has brought new energy to this northern European city this year with an average of 150 events taking place every day throughout the event. Expect new eateries, international guest chefs, workshops and themed nights on the party scene. Check out our monthly guide to what's on in Milan to make sure you make the very most of your time in the city.
Expo Gate and Castello Sforzesco, source: expo2015.org
Related: What's on this month in Milan