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AlisoGuy

Just Back from Expo 2015

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Hi All-

I'm just back from a great trip to Milan. This was my third Expo, having been to Expo 2005 in Aichi and Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Here are some impressions from my visit.

Getting There:

I think no matter how you approach the Expo, there is a lot of walking just to get on the grounds. I stayed at the NH Hotel Fiera, which is a very nice hotel on the south side of the Fiera Milano complex. They had a shuttle which dropped you at the M1 Fiera Milano station, which is how a lot of folks enter the grounds. To save some time, buy your ticket in advance, and either print it or have it on your phone. Either way works. Once you have a ticket, you go through an airport-style bag check, then up some escalators to a very long bridge, with several direction changes. It seemed to be a long way--especially on the way out!

The Site:

Don't be deceived into thinking this is a small expo, and you can get through it quickly. When I first turned the corner and looked at the length of the Decumanus, I swore it was so far I could see the curvature of the earth. ;) It's nice to have the walkway shaded, and it's pretty easy to find everything. The one mistake I think they made with the grounds is that the corporate pavilions are lost in the back. There is no "grand walkway" to get to them, and they are crammed in next to each other. Because of these design flaws, that area (and the clusters in the same vicinity) were kind of dead zones.

I think they did a nice job overall. The canals and water features were quite nice, and there was a lot of mature landscaping planted. I think in that respect, they did a better job than Shanghai, but not as good as Aichi. Signage was abundant, but tiny. There are water bottle filling kiosks everywhere, which saves you a lot of money--and you have your choice of still or sparkling--neat!

Highlights:

I think that overall, I enjoyed the Emirates pavilion the best. It was a great multi-media show, with a storyline--and some humor, which is generally absent from an Expo. Plus, they had a spectacular exhibit on Expo 2020, which I totally geeked out over. I also enjoyed Kazakhstan, which also had some Expo 2017 tie ins.

My other favorites were Japan and Germany, which always have great shows. Morocco did a great job of interpreting the theme, and the UK and Austria had very beautiful, relaxing exhibits. Uruguay's show did a great job of storytelling, as did Spain. The EU show was surprisingly nice--a sweet, relevant story. Overall, I felt like it was the "Expo of Bees", because it seemed like every pavilion featured them in one way or another!

The cluster concept was okay, but unless there was a big sponsor (as at the coffee and cocoa clusters) the spaces seemed a little lifeless. Mostly, it was a quick peek in the door at most of the countries in the clusters, then move on to something more interesting. (Which, I guess is not much different than joint pavilions at other fairs).

Pavilion Zero was a nice theme exhibit, and strangely enough, I thought that the supermarket of the future was fascinating--and yes, it is a real, functioning supermarket, so you can do all your grocery shopping there. (And a tip--the sodas and water cost 1.5 Euros there instead of 3 Euros everywhere else!)

We saw the final dress rehearsal of Allavita!, and it was a typical Cirque du Soleil show. Personally, I totally missed the storyline, and had to have it explained to me later. (I just sat and looked at the pretty colors--LOL).

There was a lot of press about things not being done on time. However, that was pretty exaggerated. The only major things not done were Nepal (because of the earthquake--volunteers are working on it now) and the Joomoo corporate pavilion looked months away from being done. And sadly--and crazily--the main gift shop was not done. For Expo trinkets, you had to go into Milan to the Expo Gate to shop! There is a bookstore, though, so guidebooks are available. (That's my most important souvenir anyway!)

The Experience:

Full disclosure: I have worked for Disney for 30 years, and that may cloud my judgment a bit, but...

Expos always do a terrible job of crowd control. The designers of pavilions never estimate demand properly, so they push in queues where they don't belong, then they mismanage them. For example: Thailand had a nice covered queue along the side of their building, but kept people out in the sun until it emptied, then sent them into it. Makes no sense.

They had a LOT of restroom capacity, and they were spotless. However, good luck finding them! Most of them were on the second floor of the Service Buildings, and never in the same spot in each building. The signage was awful, so women were in men's rooms and vice versa. Oh well--it's Europe!

The grounds were trashed most of the time. They do not have nearly enough trash cans, and they don't put them where they need to be (For example, in seating areas). The trash cans were always emptied, but I only saw one or two people sweeping the whole time I was there. They had tons of volunteers just standing around. If they were my Cast Members, I'd be giving them a pan and broom. :D

The Expo is supposedly a non-smoking venue, with designated smoking areas. However, in reality, everyone smoked everywhere, including in lines. I don't recall this being an issue at all in Shanghai, which I thought would have been worse. I blame the Expo for this one though--there are no signs, no announcements, or no communication that smoking isn't allowed. I think if there was, most people would make an effort.

Being a food related Expo, there were a lot of great dining opportunities. However--once you look at a menu, inquire as to whether everything is available. That tripped me up a few times.

Attendance:

I was there on weekdays, and the attendance seemed healthy. However, waits were reasonable. The longest I waited was for Emirates, 40 minutes. Several pavilions (Uruguay, USA, Switzerland, UK) had Fastpass-like return times.

I would say that 80% of the people there were school groups. I'm not sure if they get any education out of anything, but maybe in these roving groups of teenagers, someone will be moved enough to bring an Expo to their town later in life. :) Once the school kids left, the site cleared out considerably, and you were left with families, young adults, and tourists.

Don't arrive before opening. If you do, you'll have to wait in the sun, and the queues for security will be long. Get there at 10:30, and you'll breeze right through.

Finally...

I had a great time at Expo 2015. Like always, I loved seeing how each country interpreted the theme. That's what it's all about for me. For all the negative publicity the Expo has had, I thought they did a very nice job overall.

If you're going, and have any questions, let me know. I'll do my best to answer them.

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Bill--food was a bit pricey, but not much more than in any big city. I was spending about $25 per person for a full-service meal, and probably $15 for quick service.

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Yup - super report - thanks very much, and you say:

>If you're going, and have any questions, let me know. I'll do my best to answer them.

I am going to be stuck in a wheelchair if/when I go, and I would hate to miss what would be my 6th expo, especially as it's so close, but Italy has a generally bad rep for accessability - does the Expo seem flat? Or is it step city?

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Yup - super report - thanks very much, and you say:

>If you're going, and have any questions, let me know. I'll do my best to answer them.

I am going to be stuck in a wheelchair if/when I go, and I would hate to miss what would be my 6th expo, especially as it's so close, but Italy has a generally bad rep for accessability - does the Expo seem flat? Or is it step city?

​Yes--other than Mediterranean Hill, the Expo is flat as a pancake. The pavilions all had elevators/ramps in addition to stairs, so I don't think you'd have much trouble.

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