MILAN (AP) — The theme of this year's Milan Expo 2015 world's fair is food, and global fare is a big draw. Many of Expo's foreign visitors will be looking to sample Italian food and wine, which will be complemented by street food and cuisine from around the globe.
Here are some tips on Expo dining, along with weather, accommodations and other aspects of planning a visit.
WHERE TO EAT
Nearly every one of the more than 50 national pavilions has a restaurant featuring that country's specialties — from Russia to Morocco, Iran to Brazil, Japan to Argentina.
For those who have traveled to Italy looking for Italian fare: Eataly, the Italian food emporium/restaurant that's expanded across the globe, also has 15 regional Italian restaurants -- and a Nutella concept bar with just-for-Expo gadgets. Slow Food offers tastes of four Italian cheeses with wine pairings for 10 euros.
The U.S. has imported six food trucks to Expo celebrating regional American food and ethnic fusion trends, with rotating menus including barbecue, Tex-Mex, salad wraps and kimchi tacos. A temporary James Beard American Restaurant will open shortly in central Milan, offering uniquely American fare like Thanksgiving dinner and a Gospel brunch.
McDonald's is also at the Expo, and was doing a strong opening-day business despite criticism of the fast-food giant's participation in a world's fair focused on sustainable diet and food security.
The service area concession is run by a company from one of Italy's great food regions, Emilia Romagna, and its five restaurant and snack bar concepts offer good value, including a plate of pasta for 5 euros, a big cup of water for 30 cents, and cellphone charging stations.
The base entrance fee is 39 euros ($43.40), but there are discounts for two consecutive day tickets or three-day entrances that can be used any time. There is also a 5 euro evening ticket good from 7 p.m. until the 11 p.m. close, but bear in mind many pavilions will close at 8 p.m. The night-time entrance is aimed largely at getting Milanesi to come after work.
Milan is expecting more than 20 million visitors during Expo's run through Oct. 31, including at least 3.6 million Italians expected to overnight there. Big pushes are on to bring tourists from neighboring countries like Switzerland and Germany, along with China and the United States.
Since Milan is mostly a business destination, many hotels usually shut down for August -- but not this year. The local chamber of commerce has set up a monitor to ensure that prices aren't boosted excessively during Expo after some early complaints.
The number of Airbnb properties in Milan has more than doubled in the last year to nearly 8,000, while the number of reservations has nearly quadrupled in the last year.
Be ready for Milan's hot, humid summer weather, along with mosquitoes. Expo's main walkways are shaded by white sails that provide scant protection against rain. July is on average the warmest month, May and October the rainiest of this Expo season.
Expo is easily accessible via Milan's subway system, called the metropolitan. From the Duomo cathedral, the heart of Milan, the ride takes about 25 minutes. The metropolitan is running more frequently than usual, to accommodate the increased number of passengers, and there are messages in English. Routes to Expo are well-marked. Roundtrip to the fairgrounds, which are just outside the city limits, costs 5 euros. From the subway, it's about a 10-minute walk to the main gate security.
Italy's high-speed trains stop at Expo, making it a feasible day trip from Turin, a 46-minute ride, with trips from Bologna and Verona each just under 2 hours.
Children Park, which begs for a possessive "s," offers interactive spaces for children to learn as they play, including aromatic bells that challenge kids to recognize fragrances. The downside: no traditional playgrounds.
But many pavilions have children in mind. Brazil, with a rope structure to climb over the forest floor, is a favorite, although officials put an early stop to the jumping.
Italian baby-care company Chicco has set up changing and nursing areas, and is also offering courtesy strollers and welcome kits with a map of family-friendly services and wet wipes.