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Road to Milan Expo 2015 Part 3: The Expo Grounds

In previous posts, we’ve shared with you various bits of information about the upcoming Expo Milano 2015, from its concept, importance, and history, to practical travel tips. In this final installment on our series of blog posts on the subject, we’re going to talk about another major feature of this international event which is the Expo venue itself.

With a total area that spans around one million square meters, the Expo grounds in Milan, Italy will serve as the home to various pavilions set up by 144 participating countries, 20 represented regions or cities, 16 organizations, and four companies (and counting…). It will also be featuring a handful of major areas or facilities such as the open-air theater as well as a manmade lake.

I. Cardo, Decumano, and Piazza Italia


When exploring the site, the first thing to know about would be the Cardo and Decumano as this will assist you in getting your bearings inside this massive venue. The Expo grounds were designed and built along two intersecting lines, the streets of Cardo and Decumano, and this cross shape is patterned after ancient Roman camps known as “castrum.” It is known to be the common starting orientation for many new towns and villages, and in the case of Expo Milano, this shape was implemented in order to make it easier for visitors to navigate the many areas and pavilions which are built around these two axes.

Decumano (aka, World Avenue) is the main street and has an East-West orientation, and it spans a length of about 1.5 kilometers, while the Cardo goes North-South and is about 350 meters long (so wear comfortable shoes and get ready to walk!). At the intersection of these streets can be found the Piazza Italia, which according to the designers and organizers, is “a symbolic place where Italy meets the rest of the world.” Meanwhile, at each of the four ends can be found some of the main landmarks at the Expo which are Mediterranean Hill, the Expo Center, the Open Air Theater, and the Lake Arena, where many of the activities and events will be held.

MIlan Expo 2015 Expo Grounds Map and Floor Plan. Click to enlarge.

MIlan Expo 2015 Expo Grounds Map and Floor Plan. Click to enlarge.

II. Main Expo Site Attractions

The biggest and most prominent locations within the Expo grounds are the following:


The Italian Pavilion (Palazzo Italia)

This is the heart of the Expo grounds, and as the name suggests, this area will focus on the many high quality products of the country of Italy (yes, this includes, pizza, pasta, meats, artisanal sweets, ice cream, chocolate, and even beer!), and will also be where the state and national representatives of participating countries and municipalities will have their offices. It will also be the venue for key official meetings between countries. Above this can also be found a terrace which will treat visitors to a sweeping view of the entire site.


The Lake Arena

At the northernmost point of the Expo site is the Lake Arena which is its largest open space. It surrounds a manmade lake, around which a hundred trees have been planted, and at the center of the lake is a fountain named “the Tree of Life.” The Lake Arena will feature regular light and water shows, fireworks, as well as various concerts and performances which will be held on floating platforms in the water. It can hold up to 20,000 guests and can seat up to 3000.


The Open-Air Theater

Expo Milano’s Open-Air Theater is the main location for the majority of the Expo’s scheduled outdoor events, including concerts, theatrical performances, as well as key official ceremonies. It can accommodate up to 11,000 people who can lounge on the theater steps or the grassy areas that surround it. One of the niftiest features of this area, however, is that the stage area is composed of solar panels, thus allowing the performances held there to be powered by renewable energy.


Mediterranean Hill

Another Expo landmark, this 12-meter high hill emulates the typical vegetation that can be found in a Mediterranean ecosystem. It offers a panoramic view of the Expo grounds, and is a great spot for enjoying the summer days and evenings at the Expo.


The Civil Society Area (Cascina Triulza)

A structure that has been built to represent the typical architecture of Lombardy, it is actually a pre-existing, ancient farmhouse that was incorporated into the Expo grounds. Though it has been renovated for the Expo, this farmstead remains a heritage landmark that reminds us of the times when Milan was mainly a farming and agricultural city.

The Cascina Triulza will serve as the base for non-profit and international organizations, public institutions, and companies. Refreshments can also be found here along with a market area, and it is also a designated venue for various displays, events (it has a 200-seat auditorium, too!), workshops, laboratories, demonstrations, and performances.


Corporate Hospitality Areas

This area is set aside for the use of participating companies. Here, companies can exchange best practices, as well as set up their own spaces and pavilions to promote their brands, all while maintaining the Expo’s main theme.


Food and Drink

What’s a World Expo about food, without… well… food? At Expo Milano 2015, the organizers have created a separate area where visitors can dine and take refreshments while they tour the grounds. There will be various restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and other commercial establishments here. Facilities such as restrooms can also be found here.

Green Areas (Hortus)

expo_milano_milan_2015_street_viewInside and around the Expo site can be found green space where trees and shrubs were planted in order to not only support the main theme of eco-friendliness and sustainability, but to also serve as a lush, beautiful backdrop for the whole Expo. It also serves as a great way to counteract local air and noise pollution, allowing visitors a literal breath of fresh air in the middle of the bustling city of Milan.

Milan’s Waterways

It should also be noted that the Expo site is practically an island as it is surrounded by various waterways. This was a deliberate addition to the design as a nod to the many canals that are ubiquitous in the Lombardy region. These waterways are also accompanied by various cycling routes and parks, further enhancing the city’s green space.

III. Thematic Areas

There are five main thematic areas which aim to further immerse visitors in the Expo’s main theme which is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life (“Nutrire il Pianeta, Energia per la Vita“) with multi-sensory experiences and activities, both for adults and children. Those areas are:


Pavilion Zero

One of the first areas that visitors will most likely encounter would be the Pavilion Zero. This area aims to tell the story of man’s relationship with nature, and the changes in our natural landscapes and habits of consumption from the earliest period of human history to present. We’ll get to see how the earliest humans first domesticated animals for consumption, and cultivated crops, and along with it, the development of various tools and methods that made all of this possible. It then moves along the timeline until we are brought to our present time, and visitors are asked to take a closer look at our new attitudes towards food, and the current state of the planet.


Future Food District (FFD)

According to the official site, the FFD “presents possible scenarios for the application of new technologies at each step of the food chain.” Here, ideas on the possibilities of future food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption are explored. Other than exhibits and discussions, however, the FFD also features an interactive “supermarket experience” which aims to allow visitors to know how food gets to our tables, from start to finish. There will also be laboratories and open kitchens where visitors are invited to try out and experiment with new kitchen concepts and technologies, with the guidance of professional chefs. This area is managed by Carlo Ratti, the Director of the SENSEable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Children’s Park

From the official site, the Children’s Park is described as “an area dedicated to exploring the Expo theme through fun.” Here, kids can play and relax with the help of educational games and activities that aim to introduce the topic of sustainability to children. This is done by highlighting the relationship with all other living things on our planet and how we all support each other.


Biodiversity Park

An area that is spearheaded by the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food of Milan, along with the international non-profit organization Slow Food, this area highlights the importance of agricultural biodiversity, as well as the sustainable production of quality food on a small scale. It is composed of 8000 square meters of parkland, where one can find various greenhouses and open spaces that feature the importance of content rather than structure. These plots and green houses will contain a plethora of plants, crops, orchards, gardens, as well as multimedia and interactive installations, games, and performances that visitors can enjoy.


Arts & Foods

An Expo event that will be held at the Triennale in Milan, this particular area will be open to visitors from April 10, 2015 to November 1, 2015. Here, guests can enjoy artwork, drawings, architectural models, films, objects, documents, books, menus, and album covers which collectively aim to highlight our relationship with food and the development of our eating habits, all via the inspiration brought about by both classical and contemporary art. This exhibit will include multimedia interactive installations alongside masterpieces that have been loaned from various museums, institutions, and private collectors.

IV. Expo Pavilions and Clusters


As mentioned in earlier installments of this series, the Milan Expo 2015 will serve as a fantastic opportunity for nations, organizations, and companies to feature their products and ideas, and promote their culture and practices to an international audience. As such, many of these participants will be setting up booths and pavilions at the Expo site, with each pavilion and cluster having its own set of unique events, exhibits, displays, and sub-themes. Here are the types of pavilions to expect:

Self-Built Pavilions (National Pavilions)

At the Expo, there will be pavilions which are dedicated to individual nations, such as the USA and Japan, for example. These are areas that can range anywhere from 500 to 5000 square meters in size, with structures built on it by the corresponding nation’s government.



One of the new World Expo features being introduced at Expo Milano 2015 would be that of clusters. Where in the past, each nation had a separate pavilion, in this year’s Expo, some nations are being grouped into clusters according to a common theme and food group that they represent. By doing this, the Expo aims to further encourage mingling, international dialogue, sharing of ideas, diversity, and cooperation. There are nine clusters, namely:

  • Rice – Abundance and Security
  • Cocoa: The Food of the Gods
  • Coffee: The Engine of Ideas
  • Fruits and Legumes
  • Spices: The World of Spices
  • Cereals and Tubers: Old and New Crops
  • Bio-Mediterraneum: Health, Beauty, and Harmony
  • Islands, Sea, and Food
  • Agriculture and Nutrition in the Arid Zones


And there you have it. This is but a very short list of things to see and do at the Milan Expo 2015, not even counting the many, many off-site events (such as the Expo Torino, various art exhibitions in other cities, theatrical performances at the La Scala… just to name a few…) that are being put up by the government of Italy especially for the occasion.

But now that you know what people are getting all excited about, where and how to get tickets for it, and what to expect to find when you get there, it’s time to pack your bags, grab your camera, take that flight to Italy, and take part in the fun and adventure that the 2015 World Expo has to offer!

Read Previous:

Road to Milan Expo 2015 Part 1: What It’s All About

Road to Milan Expo 2015 Part 2: Practical Information


(Images Sourced from Expo Milano Official Site, Wikipedia)

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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