EXPO Milano 2015: Food for Thought

Expo logo , (photo by Expo Milano )
Expo logo

Travel writer Susie Boulton visits Milan as it gears up for Expo 2015.

über-cool Milan, famed for its fashion houses, will be focussing its attention on feeding the planet at Expo 2015, launching on 1st May and lasting six months.

Travellers tend to dismiss Milan as misty and grey, lacking the culture and charm of Florence, Venice and Rome.  But with the next world exhibition on the horizon, bringing a predicted 20 million visitors, the city is seeing a makeover and is very much back à la mode.

Occupying a space of almost a million square metres  northwest of the centre, Expo will be the  largest worldwide food event ever, with 148 participating nations and  over 50 international pavilions.  The food theme   'Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life' is an apt choice for Italy, whose cuisine is the most loved in the world. 

But this world fair is far more than a celebration of food; it focuses on nutrition, resources of Planet Earth and sustainable food production for the next generation.  Water shortage, food wastage,  slow food and technology  will be key issues. And in case you’re wondering about all that food going spare at the end of the day, there will be star chefs in Milan cooking up Expo leftovers for meals for the needy.

The six-month event will have  attractions to suit all tastes: exotic  and colourful food displays to inspire budding chefs, cooking demos, cutting-edge buildings  for eco-architects, fun activities for youngsters, a 12,000 open-air theatre and, for showgoers, a nightly performance of Cirque du Soleil, tailor-made for EXPO. Foodies will have a huge choice of eateries from around the globe – and tastings galore.  


Snazzy Pavilions 

State-of-the-art pavilions will include the UK's pulsating virtual beehive,  highlighting the plight of the honey bee, the herb and hop-festooned French pavilion, the spectacular, smog-eating  Italian ‘urban forest’, the lotus-inspired Vietnamese pavilion and the Chinese developer Vanke’s serpent-like  structure reinterpreting the traditional Chinese dining hall (shitang),  Smaller nations will form part of thematic food clusters, exploring commodities such as Spices, Coffee, Cocoa, Fruit and Legumes.   


Food and Culture

Milan is preparing a rich programme of cultural events for the millions who will be descending on the city and surrounding region.  Along with dozens of food and art-related exhibitions there will be jazz, dance and music, with free concerts taking place in Piazza Duomo. Pianos will be tinkling throughout the city, in stations, boats, trams and parks, during May’s Pianocity Festival.  For the duration of Expo the world-famous La Scala opera house will be hosting 140 events including recitals, opera and ballet -  many dedicated to families.


The Leonardo Link

From mid-April to mid July Milan’s Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) in the city centre is hosting the largest ever Leonardo retrospective:  Leonardo 1452-1519The Design of the World.   It will feature drawings, sculpture, working models and Leonardo masterpieces on loan from the Louvre and other major galleries.  Expect long queues here, and even longer ones at Milan’s single most famous sight: Leonardo’s Last Supper.  Only 25 visitors are allowed at a time to see this masterpiece and the visits are limited to 15 minutes. Be sure to book well ahead (www.cenacolovinciano.net).

Few people know that Leonardo da Vinci, painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, musician and mathematician, was also intrigued by food and its importance on our daily lives.  He became a vegetarian in his later years and even wrote a guide for healthy living.  Ever inventive, Leonardo designed a stove for smoking meats, a device for turning roasts, mechanical nutcrackers and a left-handed corkscrew.  He was employed by Ludovico Sforza,  Duke of Milan, not only as military architect and ground-breaking artist, but also to choose the ingredients for Court Feasts and oversee the sumptuous banquet settings.

In his role as engineer Leonardo modernised the Navigli, the key navigable waterways linking Milan to the River Ticino which descends from Switzerland.  The canals had been used to ship huge blocks of marble from quarries near Lake Maggiore for Milan’s monumental Duomo (Cathedral). Leonardo was fascinated by waterways and his sluice-gate system is still in use today.   The Navigli canal quarter is nowadays a buzzing centre of waterside restaurants, bars and clubs, packed in the evenings and weekends with young Milanese. 

Culinary Delights

Gourmet restaurants, ethnic eateries, Slow Food, regional fare – Milan has it all.  You can eat your way through over 100 different national cuisines – or go local with the creamy saffron-flavoured risotto Milanese.   As for partying, the after-work aperitivo has become a Milanese way of life, a lavish buffet often thrown in for the price of a cocktail.   

Milanese Foodie Hotspots

Carlo e Camilla

Via Meda 24, tel: 02 837 3963; www.carloecamillainsegheria.it

A converted sawmill in an up-and-coming quarter, Charles and Camilla is new innovative restaurant,  part-owned by top Chef Carlo Cracco.  Don’t go expecting a cosy table à deux.  There is just one long table and, apart from the crystal chandeliers,  minimalist decor and bare walls.


Piazza XXV Aprile 10, +39 02 494 97301; www.eataly.it

 A cult foodie haven converted in from the Smeraldo theatre in 2014, dedicated to top-of-the-range food shops with locally sourced produce, wine emporium, 19 eateries (Alice, www.aliceristorante.it  has a Michelin star), food workshops, a huge stage and free music, from pop to opera. 


Via Montenapoleone 8, tel: 02 76005599 (www.pasticceriacova.it)

Shop ‘til you drop in the Quadrilatero fashion district then come to historic Caffe Cova for wonderful coffee, pastries or a slab of  chocolate gateau. The tiny sizes of the patisserie go down well with fashionistas.  

La Rinascente Food Hall

Piazza Duomo, tel: 02 885 2472; www.rinascente.it/foodandrestaurants

The upmarket department store overlooking the Duomo’s spires has a wonderful top floor food emporium offering 9 bars and restaurants including My Sushi, Obikà Mozzarella Bar, juice and Champagne Bars.



Via Spadari, 9; www.peck.it

A gourmet’s dream deli, spread out of three floors, and offering a tantalising range of cured meats,  cheeses, chocolates, olive oils etc plus wine emporium with 3000 labels.  



Via Manzoni, tel:  02 8909 6950; http://lartemilano.com

Opened in 2013, trendsetting  Larte offers high quality cuisine  inspired by the Mediterranean and  washed down with sparkling Bellavista wines from the Franciacorta wine region. 

Il Marchesino

Via Filodrammatici, 2; tel: 02 7209 4338; www.ilmarchesino.it

Combine the very best of music and food – this is La Scala’s restaurant.  Gualiero Marchesi,  Maestro of Italian haute cuisine, gives Milanese classics a modern, creative twist.

The official website for Expo Milano 2015, including information on the city and whole region, is www.wonderfulexpo2015.info