I must admit, when I think of Milan my initial thought is always of being at the train station and the Embassy and being scared shitless that my girlfriend was gone. For that, my opinion of Italy’s second largest city is a bit skewed. Also, outside of that fiasco, I only spent one full day in the city and didn’t see much other than the Milan Expo. With that said, Milan was very different from other parts of Italy I had visited. It was a sprawl of modern urbanity, professional and very on the go. This was a stark contrast to the relaxed approach of the people of Southern Italy. The difference can be summed up with an old saying:
“There are more banks in Milan than cathedrals in Rome.”
Not only is it probably true, it’s very appropriate considering Milan hosts the Italian stock exchange and the headquarters of the largest banks and companies in Italy.
Arriving back in Milan went much smoother than our first try. We dropped our things off in the hostel before heading back out in search of some kebabs. Tummies full, we relaxed a bit until late afternoon when we caught the train to the main attraction:
The 2015 Milan Expo!!!
The expo was conveniently located one stop outside of the main train zone, so the tickets were a few euros more. We thought we would be sneaky and buy only zone 1 to save a few euros. Instead, we earned ourselves a €35 fine each. Guards were lined up in a blockade like a quarantine situation, not allowing anyone to pass without showing their ticket. BUSTED!
A long bridge took us from the metro station to the entrance area. Thankfully, since it was after 5PM, the entrance tickets were only €5. After buying our tickets, we entered the expo. Stretching for nearly 2 miles, pavilions from 145 participating countries were laid out along a main boulevard. Each pavilion was unique, some being very simple in nature, while others were quite extravagant. Massive awnings provided much-needed shade during the day and were all lit up at night.
The theme of the expo was sustainable food. Displays on coffee, rice, grains, and cocoa provided an insight into how some of our everyday ingredients are grown and harvested. Each country’s pavilion contained samples of their food and new innovations in sustainable growth. One of the most interesting was Israel, where plots of crops were growing on a near vertical wall. Implementing a unique drip-irrigation system, this method was much more water-conservative and produced more per foot compared with regular methods. At any rate, it was an interesting concept.
Walking around the expo reminded me of a giant state fair. We went in a few country’s pavilions including the United States, of course. The U.S. used food trucks to represent our country’s food, a good idea seeing as they are growing in popularity. I also bought a sack of Lindt chocolate truffles. The store was enormous and had truffles in just about every flavor, including my newly discovered favorite: Limoncello.
The highlight of the evening was an incredible water and light show in the lake arena. A large pond spouted water in a 12 minute show, while lights and music amplified the scene. In the center of the pond was a massive metal structure dubbed “The Tree of Life”. Crowds had gathered around the structure and we all watched in awe. It was a masterful presentation and a good ending to our expo visit.
After a hot night in the hostel, we spent half a day getting to our next destination: Chamonix, France. We would soon begin the most epic hike I have ever been on… The Walker’s Haute Route!
The Milan Expo had really jacked up the hostel rates during the summer. This was the cheapest option I could find and we got what we paid for. We stayed in the 12 person dorm, which was quite crammed. It seemed to be in a dusty attic with weak fans that did little to quell the Italian summer heat. The biggest upside was it was located very close to Centrale Station. Maybe the other rooms are nicer, but I would not recommend this hostel unless you are scraping for cash.