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Malta. The crossroads of Mediterranean history

Culture / -

Il 16 luglio è il National Day della Repubblica di Malta
© Sakis Papadopoulos/Robert Harding World Imagery Corbis

The key fact about this archipelago is its supremely strategic geographical position for ships sailing the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of history… the cause of an infinite series of conquests and occupations, still clearly visible in its capital, Valletta.

The most southerly country in the European Union and also the smallest. The archipelago of Malta – with its two sister islands Gozo and Comino, and the uninhabited islands of Cominotto and Fifla – is situated 80 km south of Sicily and 280 km north-east of Tunisia. The history of this tiny outpost in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea goes back to the dawn of civilization: its earliest settlements date back to 7,000 years ago, although the first written documentation is in the Bible, with the account of Saint Paul being shipwrecked there.
Over the millennia, Malta has been an obligatory port of call on all the main sea routes of the Mediterranean, and consequently has been constantly fought over and occupied by many powers: Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Templar Knights, France and Britain… the island gained its independence from the latter only in 1964.
Today, the fascination of Malta lies precisely in this accumulation of different cultures, still clearly visible in its capital, Valletta, and now drawing numerous tourists who make a major contribution to the island’s economy.
A name filled with sweetness
Malta’s name is rooted in food – the ancient Greeks called it Melite, meaning ‘honey’, due to the large quantities of bees on the island – and the food eaten today reflects the essence of Mediterranean diet over the centuries.
Malta’s traditional dishes vary with the passage of the seasons. They range from Lampuki Pie (a fish pie) to Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (olive and beef), and Kapumata (similar to ratatouille). Then there is Widow’s Soup, served with a small Gbejniet pie (sheep’s cheese or goats’ cheese). Any food shop or stall sells Bigilla, a thick bean paste with garlic. Tapas-type snacks – nibbled with a glass of tasty local wine – include Hobz biz-zej (thick slices of bread dipped in olive oil, rubbed with ripe tomatoes and filled with a mixture of tuna, onion, garlic, tomato and capers) and Pastizzi (pastries filled with ricotta or pea paste).
Naturally, now as in ancient times, the sea is the main source of protein, forming the base of popular dishes such as the Aljotta (fish soup), and fish stews or fish pasta sauces with squid and octopus.
Among the most common desserts are Kannoli and Kassata, whose names reveal their Sicilian origins, and the Helwa tat-Tork, made with crushed sweets and whole almonds. Spring is the period for Figolli (an Easter specialty with shaped pastries stuffed with almonds) and midwinter the season for Qaghaq tal-ghasel, a dessert based on the ancient ingredient which Malta was famed for: honey.
A hive of knowledge
Bees and honey are very much at the center of the Maltese Pavilion in Expo Milano 2015, situated in the Bio-Mediterraneum Cluster. Inspired by the shape of a beehive, it features a large dome with hexagonal cells, each filled with videos showing Malta’s riches. To this day, in fact, bees continue to thickly populate the archipelago. The colors used throughout the exhibition space are typically Mediterranean, evoking health, relaxation and wellbeing, mixed with the colors of Malta’s flag.

Traveling the world at Expo Milano 2015. The most beautiful cover images

Culture / -

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© Blaine Harrington III-Corbis
© Hugh Sitton/Corbis
ND Cile 29 sett
© Michael Hanson_Mint Images_Corbis
© Hugh Sitton-Corbis
© Jacob Maentz-Corbis
© amethyst/Demotix/Corbis
© Raf Willems Photography-Corbis
© Chris Strickland/Demotix/Corbis
© Emilie CHAIX/Photononstop/Corbis
© Frans Lanting/Corbis
ND Bolivia
© Marc Dozier/Corbis
© Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis
china national day cover
Keren Su, Corbis
L'11 luglio è il National Day del Giappone.
© Michael Runkel/Robert Harding World Imagery/

A kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, traditions, dances, day after day, the countries participating in Expo Milano 2015 have celebrated National Days, festive occasions and the sharing of different cultures. ExpoNet, the official magazine of Expo Milano 2015, has shared many cultural insights through evocative images and original writing. Here are just some of the stunning landscapes taken from the photographs of the six months of the Universal Exhibition that illustrate natural, scenic and human riches. To travel with the mind, to be inspired, to open oneself….to the world.

Ten Plants that Attract Butterflies

Sustainability / -


While the great Belgian writer, Maurice Maeterlinck defined butterflies as the “the daughters of the sun”, and others have referred to them as “pearls of the air”, or “flying jewels”, they do not feed on spiritual matters but need material food like the rest of us. So what do butterflies eat? And what are the most nutritious foods for butterflies?

Although the majority of butterflies are, of course, vegetarian, their needs change according to their life-cycle. So let’s have a quick look at that. They go from the egg, through the larva or caterpillar, through the pupa and the chrysalis to the adult stage. While they are immobile in the egg and chrysalis stages, food sources are inbuilt. During the intermediate period, as caterpillars, they need to feed and, indeed, need to feed a lot, spending the most part of the day eating, growing apace. From leaving the egg to entering the chrysalis stage, our potential butterfly increases its volume no less than one thousand-fold.
While caterpillars only eat leaves, butterflies’ food preferences vary.
Being the “daughters of the sun”, as the man said, they feed from what we might call the “food of the gods”, or nectar. This difference in diet has evolved to eliminate competition and use resources efficiently: while the caterpillars go for one part of the plant, their adult selves prefer another.
Shifting now from theory to practice, let’s take a look at the plants that butterflies love to feed from, starting when they are at the caterpillar stage.
In Italy, rues, such as Ruta spp., wild fennel and other members of the Umbelliferae family, such as parsley, are favorites for the caterpillars of the swallowtail (Papilio machaon Linnaeus), known in Italian as the macaone, and considered its loveliest butterfly.
The caterpillar of the small cabbage white butterfly, known as the cavolaia in Italian, prefers members of the Brassica oleracea, or cabbage family; it loves nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus).
When in caterpillar form, the butterfly known as the Scarce Swallowtail, even if it is not, and whose Latin name is Iphiclides podalirius, and is called the podalirio in Italian, favors blackthorn, or sloe (Prunus spinosa), as well as other members of the Rosaceae family, such as plums, peach, and apricot.
Nectar-based plants for adult butterflies
Adult butterflies feed through a tube and are thus able only to eat liquids. These plants are examples of such nectar-rich plants:
 • Verbena pulchella and Verbena bonariensís);
 • Lantana (Lantana sellowíana);
 • Yellow Alyssum (Alyssum saxatile);
 • Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
 • Lacy phacelia, also known as blue tansy or purple tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
 • European goldenrod or woundwort (Solidago virga-aurea);
While Buddleja davidii, also known as summer lilac, butterfly-bush, or orange eye is very atractive to butterflies, botanists do not recommend it, though, as it can become invasive. Other options are preferable.
Expo Milano 2015 provides a perfect opporuntity for finding out more about our planet’s biodiversity. The  Biodiversity Park focuses on Italy, and showcases the country’s environment, agriculture, and food production. Visitors to the park will see how Italy’s agricultural biodiversity has evolved and has been taken care of, their visit complemented by events, seminars, and multi-media experiences.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

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