We had one main reason to go to Milan: the Formula 1 Grand Prix. We booked tickets before we even left for Europe and scheduled our whole route through Italy (which doubled back through Milan) so we could be there on the day of the race. Tickets were 85 EUR each for general admission, and of course, not within our daily budget, but there are some things worth splurging for and we deemed this as one.
Milan also happens to be hosting the 2015 International World Expo themed “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and we decided to go. Tickets were a whopping 39 EUR for a full-day pass while a night ticket was only 5 EUR. We arrived in Milan Saturday afternoon and attended the fair that evening. Night tickets got us in at 6PM and we read the fair was open until midnight.
Overall, the fair was a huge disappointment:
- It was extremely overcrowded. I expected to have to wait to get through the airport-security-like entrance but I didn’t expect there to be 30 minute to three hour waits to get into most of the main pavilions once inside the expo.
- The theme wasn’t really there, on the pavilion level or by the fair itself. The fair has been deemed one of the most controversial world fairs to date in Europe seeing a total expenditure of close to 13 billion Euro. In fact, an article by the Guardian (click here) referred to the event as a “bloated global extravaganza” which is incredibly accurate and I suddenly wasn’t so upset Canada opted out of this fair. In my opinion, the fair turned out to be a complete failure and its motto is nothing but empty words.
- All the pavilions closed at 10 PM, not midnight (I suppose the restaurants may have been open later). The Japan pavilion closed their line-up at 6 PM due to the average three hour wait time and approximate 50 minute tour time, we saw people still lined up there at 9:30 PM! Given this, we missed touring the inside of most of the major pavilions (maybe they were truer to the fair’s motto?)
The next morning we slept in a bit and recuperated after a very busy few days. Like many things in Europe, it was near impossible to find out any information on how to get to the Grand Prix circuit in Monza and what times the trains were scheduled for. It was also near impossible to find a legit event schedule for the Grand Prix! When we arrived at Central Station we missed a train by one minute. Luckily, there were staff at the station in special uniforms belonging to the company that organized trains directly to the track and we found our way to the correct platform in no time. Once we got into the race grounds I was a little taken back at the hundreds of people living in shanty-like camps along the edge of the forest/track. The train drops you off at the opposite end of the track that is far away from the grandstand action, which I guess meant some questionable fans hung out there. Lots of people were sleeping, or drinking, and make-shift camps were set up and the whole scene looked nothing like what I expected from a Grand Prix. I couldn’t figure out if these people paid to get in and camped for the whole weekend, or if they lived there full time and it just so happened the track was in their backyard, or if they snuck in before security set up to avoid paying. Whatever the case, it was a bit strange.
A few more kilometers of walking and we arrived at the central area. The Grand Stands were packed, food and beverage places were bustling and shops were selling endless amounts of Ferrari, Mercedes and other teams gear. Everyone was dressed up and the scene was completely different than the one we saw just minutes before. We walked around to the end of the track to a long straight where there was a slight hill and we had a good view. The fence was already packed up close, but we found a decent spot to stand.
Because I’m not quite as tall as Dan, I didn’t have the best view – so he put me on his shoulders and I could see everything! Also the vantage point most of the photos were taken from 🙂 About half way through the race we walked back through the forested area (along the track) to get a different view of the race. We pasted a good corner and watched for a bit there and then found a fairly deserted area where we could get right up to the track on the same level as it, just behind two chain link fences.
Following the race, they opened a gate near us onto the track and we walked down towards the finish watching people excitedly pick up scraps of rubber that had melted off tires or tear-offs from the drivers goggles to keep as souvenirs (we even saw a few people carrying giant styrofoam or cardboard signs on the way out). We didn’t make it close enough to see the podium ceremony in person but it was displayed around us on giant screens.
Overall, it was an awesome experience to hear these incredible machines go flying around the track – especially the Monza circuit, which is known as the fastest track! We literally got about 10m from the cars as they were going 300+ kph. I couldn’t imagine how loud the cars were when they used to be V10’s or V12’s, even with the current small V6’s (they are hybrids as well) I had to wear earplugs.