Italy welcomes the world as host of Expo 2015
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.