Held once every five years, the Milan Expo is the world’s largest exhibition, attracting over 20 million international visitors. Halen Mon attended through the GREAT Week initiative – a series of trade missions coinciding with the Expo. Under the theme ‘Grown in Britain,’ these missions offer UK companies opportunities to meet major buyers, potential partners and substantial business prospects from around the world.
Arriving at our apartment we were a bit surprised to see evidence of a fairly feisty demonstration the night before. Graffiti on the walls ranged from plaintive ‘still don’t heart expo’ to slightly more ripe comments about the corruption and general waste of money involved in hosting it. Large burnt areas on pavements showed where cars had been torched and banks’ plate glass windows had clearly been hammered by blunt instruments. Hats off to the local community for clearing up as quickly and thoroughly as they had done.
We quickly settled into a routine: shopping for breakfast essentials (ham, cheeses, tomatoes, yoghurt, bread, tiny, delicious pears), checking out restaurants for that night’s supper, researching the buyers we were hoping to meet, and stopping for refreshing Aperol spritzes at the bar conveniently located underneath our flat.
A visit to Tutto Food showed what we have always suspected: Italian exhibitions are stylish and unpressured, and business is conducted in a civilised manner over a glass of red wine or an espresso.
Milan Expo was like a slightly more educated Epcot. Dancing carrots and courgettes marched in time to manically catchy music through the main street. The UK pavilion stood out with its clever design- a wonderful scented garden drawing visitors into its hive-like structure.
We were lucky enough to meet (and chat seasonings with) two food greats: Tom Aikens and Ken Hom.
Milan is slightly charred chewy pizza crusts; house martins swooping and calling overhead; warm air filled with the thistledown from black poplar trees, a city centre wheat field, and everywhere, the smells of aromatic roasted coffee. It is beautifully cut Italian clothes, massive platters of meat, exquisitely dressed salads, smooth gelato, a glass of Prosecco served with a handful of olives, silky pasta and trees growing vertically out of a block of flats.