Italy wel­comes the world as host of Expo 2015

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

ALIVE video feed from the Vat­i­can fea­tured Pope Fran­cis wel­com­ing guests from around the world. In Mi­lan, a spec­tac­u­lar show got rave re­views as Expo 2015 got un­der­way.

It was a fit­ting kick­off to the Uni­ver­sal Ex­po­si­tion, which be­gan May 1 and goes to Oct. 31 in Italy. The Pope, not usu­ally known for pro­mot­ing events of this na­ture, was happy to par­tic­i­pate be­cause of the theme of this year’s ex­po­si­tion, Feed­ing the Planet, En­ergy for Life.

“Je­sus Christ has taught us to pray, say­ing: Lord give us our daily bread,” said Pope Fran­cis in his ad­dress. “In or­der to make this not only a mere topic, it is fun­da­men­tal that this theme is ac­com­pa­nied by the con­science of the many faces that are starv­ing, of the many that to­day will not ad­e­quately eat.”

From around the globe, 140 na­tions will show off their coun­try, while high­light­ing tech­nolo­gies and strate­gies that sup­port the theme.

Notwith­stand­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the mes­sage embodied in the theme, at its heart the ex­po­si­tion is also a cel­e­bra­tion of na­tions: of what makes each coun­try spe­cial and how they ef­fec­tively in­ter­act with the rest of the world.

Vis­it­ing Expo 2015 is not a one-day af­fair. Cov­er­ing more than 1.1 mil­lion square me­tres of land, many of the coun­try pavil­ions are both mas­sive and im­pres­sive.

More than 20 mil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to file through the site dur­ing its six-month show­ing. With more than 10,000 vis­i­tors a day, the space will be well-uti­lized.

Ex­pos in the past have of­ten changed the per­cep­tion of peo­ple to­wards the host­ing na­tion. Canada’s own Expo 67 is cred­ited with open­ing the eyes of the world to the tourist won­ders this na­tion has to of­fer. Mon­treal, the site of that cel­e­bra­tion, is said to have evolved from an in­su­lar city to a cos­mopoli­tan one sig­nif­i­cantly as a re­sult of that event.

Italy is al­ready a coun­try that is one of the most popular tourist des­ti­na­tions in the world. Its his­tory and the myr­iad of movies that have ro­man­ti­cized re­gions such as Tus­cany and Um­bria at­tract mil­lions of vis­i­tors an­nu­ally.

But it is also a fair no­ta­tion that the north­ern sec­tors, in­clud­ing Mi­lan, are not vis­ited to the same ex­tent. Expo 2015 will likely be the last­ing le­gacy that will change that.

And as it did in Canada, vis­i­tors will ex­pand their hori­zons and plan longer va­ca­tions to visit the al­ready popular at­trac­tions to the south, or travel across the Swiss-Ital­ian bor­der to visit the pre­dom­i­nately Ital­ian speak­ing re­gion of Switzer­land’s Ti­cino prov­ince. Its main city, Lugano, is one of the most pic­turesque in the world.

The con­cept of the Uni­ver­sal Ex­po­si­tion was sup­posed to be a non-com­mer­cial ex­hi­bi­tion, but the costs of host­ing such a ma­jor event has led to the need for of­fi­cial spon­sors for the event, and in many of the coun­try pavil­ions.

While that may have par­tially changed the na­ture of the cel­e­bra­tion, the re­al­ity is cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tions have kept the qual­ity of each suc­cess­ful Expo at a high level of ap­peal and en­ter­tain­ment.

It was in the Crys­tal Palace in Lon­don that the first Uni­ver­sal Ex­po­si­tion took place in 1851. In the past, the sites of the ex­po­si­tion be­came the land­scapes that showed off a last­ing le­gacy of the event for the decades that fol­lowed.

Few who go to France pass up the op­por­tu­nity to see the Eif­fel Tower in Paris, which be­came a cul­tural sym­bol af­ter the city hosted this event in 1889.

Later it would be the Space Nee­dle in Seat­tle, the Atomium in Brussels, and the Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity hous­ing in Mon­treal.

More re­cent Ex­pos have moved from lega­cies built around struc­tures into mod­ern neigh­bour­hoods fea­tur­ing hous­ing, parks and mu­se­ums.

In Van­cou­ver, much of the land was con­verted to luxury hous­ing and a food and en­ter­tain­ment venue that still thrives.

Like this year’s theme in Mi­lan, Uni­ver­sal Ex­po­si­tions have al­ways been built around lofty themes.

In Mon­treal, per­haps suit­ing the im­pact on the city of what would evolve out of the six-month cel­e­bra­tion, the theme was Man and His World.

In 1986, Van­cou­ver chose the theme World in Mo­tionWorld in Touch.

Given the words of wis­dom im­parted by Mi­lan Mayor Gi­u­liano Pis­apia in his open­ing ad­dress, the theme of this year’s Expo, Feed­ing the Planet, En­ergy for Life, is most ap­pro­pri­ate.

“We can’t ac­cept that 800 mil­lion peo­ple in the world are starv­ing, while there are those ones who are over­weight, nor could we ac­cept a world where forests and sea re­sources are con­sumed in­dis­crim­i­nately,” said Pis­apia.

While the sub­ject may be se­ri­ous in na­ture, there is no ques­tion vis­i­tors will come away from Expo 2015 be­ing en­ter­tained as well as en­light­ened.

Each par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­try will present the best at­tributes of their na­tion in var­i­ous ways, from culi­nary op­tions to in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. Italy, as host na­tion, will make sure ev­ery vis­i­tor is im­pressed with what they can see and do in the rest of their coun­try, hop­ing to mo­ti­vate them to re­turn to Italy.

From Canada, there are a num­ber of easy-con­nec­tion flights to Mi­lan. Air Canada of­fers up to five non-stop flights from Toronto to Italy weekly. From Win­nipeg, you can ar­rive in Mi­lan in just over 13 hours on Air Canada and no more than 18 hours with con­nec­tions on other air­lines and routes. For­ward your travel ques­tions to askjour­neys@jour­neystravel. com. Ron Pradinuk is pres­i­dent of Jour­neys Travel & Leisure

Su­perCen­tre and can be heard Sun­days at noon on CJOB. Pre­vi­ous col­umns and tips can be found at www.jour­neystrav­el­gear.com or read Ron’s travel blog at www.that­trav­el­guy.ca.

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