Before a couple months ago I had never heard of the Universal Expo. I started seeing commercials for it when I arrived in Italy this past January. I was curious, but never really looked into it. Until last weekend when Anna asked if I wanted to go with her (her company FlorenceForFun will be offering day trips from now until the Expo closes at the end of October). I didn’t have any plans, so I figured why not?
Turns out the Universal Expo, or Expo for short, is the modern day incarnation of the World’s Fair. Every five years a location and theme are selected and hundreds of countries design, build, and host a pavilion on the fairgrounds. The theme for the 2015 Expo was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Most of the tents did some sort of presentation or display concerning global food production and sustainability. I did find it a bit paradoxical that this massive complex was built to promote sustainability, yet the entire exhibition is temporary and built only for this exposition.
Pope Francis actually came out against the Expo and the Vatican’s participation. Yes, the Holy See had it’s very own pavilion, in which they displayed an important Tintoretto fresco. Francis declared publicly that the Expo “obeys the culture of waste and does not contribute to a model of equitable and sustainable development.” Vatican City actually paid €3 million for its own pavilion before Francis’s appointment to the papacy. I’ll admit, I see Francis’s point that spending 3 million on a pavilion to talk about food sustainability and hunger doesn’t actually feed anyone. At the same time, I doubt this is the only money misspent by the Vatican… and then there is the Vatican Bank… But I digress…
I will be honest, I was not overly blown away by the 2015 Expo. It was a fun day, but it felt like a theme park with no rides. After admiring the architecture, you would wait in long lines to spend 10 minutes walking through displays inside each pavilion, some of which, like the U.S.’s (sorry guys), were pretty boring. The better pavilions, like Qatar, Columbia, and Thailand had very long lines. For me, the highlight was the food. I know I shouldn’t complain, but the lack of cuisine diversity in Italy gets to me after a while. I miss Cuban, Thai, Mexican, and Indian food the most. So naturally, we did a lot of eating at the Expo. We started are morning grazing the pastries in France, lunch snacking on tostadas (and margaritas) in Mexico, and the afternoon stuffing ourselves with dumplings. And then there were the mini pancakes in the Netherlands. I am still full.
So would I recommend going? Sure, why not. But as you can tell, I am not overly enthusiastic. It was a fun day, but I certainly wouldn’t go over seeing the actual city of Milan (the fair is not near the historical center of Milan). Go if you have the time, but if you don’t make it, there is always Dubai!
Is anyone going to (or has gone to) the Expo? What did you think?