Your Layover Guide to Rome (FCO)
Our “Your Layover Guide” series features airports and destinations around the world where you’re likely to be stuck between flights, offering tips on navigating and spending time in the airport, as well as some things to do if you find yourself with time to explore the nearby city. Today, TPG Contributor Nicholas du Pont guides us through Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino International Airport.
Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino (FCO), served by over 90 airlines flying to five continents, is one of Europe’s busiest airports. It's Alitalia’s hub and headquarters, a focus city for EasyJet and Vueling and a hub for Italian airlines Meridiana fly and Blue Panorama. FCO has been haphazardly expanded since its opening in the early 60s and lacks an organized flow, but it still has its advantages. It’s well linked to the city by rail; you can fly almost anywhere in Europe nonstop; and, of course, a good meal and good shopping are close at hand — as is the case in most of Italy.
At the Airport
At FCO, Boingo-provided Wi-Fi is free throughout all terminals. There are several 24-hour First Aid Aeroporti di Roma pharmacies throughout the airport: at Terminal 1's check-in area; Terminal 3's Departures level; just before Boarding Area D in Terminal 3; and beyond the security checkpoint in Terminal 5. There's also a branch of Poste Italiane, the Italian postal service, in the Arrivals zone of Terminal 1 (open Monday to Friday, from 8:30am - 3:30pm).
In Terminal 3, there are four baby care stations (at boarding areas D, G, H and by the check-in area) and two chapels (Catholic/Christian and multi-denominational).
If you're traveling to or from the US on an American carrier (rather than Alitalia), your check-in formalities will be completed at Terminal 5, which is separated from the rest of the airport; to travel to/from it, you must take one of the airport-provided shuttles from the main terminal. This shuttle is free and runs every fifteen minutes, but it's better to leave extra time and be safe rather than left behind.
There’s no shortage of shopping options at Fiumicino's Terminal 3. Almost all flights to the States actually leave from this terminal's concourse G; you’ll be shuttled here from Terminal 5, and at the top of the escalator and straight ahead, you'll find a duty-free shop. Inside on your right is an Italian Gourmet section with pastas, olive oil and panettone galore — in addition to the usual chocolates, perfumes and alcohol. Spread out around the concourse, you’ll also find all of the usual Italian brand-name luxury goods stores, like Gucci and Prada. Check the Aeroporti di Roma website for the latest sales going on at the airport shops.
Just as with anywhere else in Italy, you can eat very well for relatively little at Fiumicino. Again, most flights to the US depart from concourse G. When you get to the top of the escalator, hook a 90-degree right and you’ll see the enormous food court. Here you can find just about everything your Italian-food-loving heart desires, from paninis to pizzas and pastas. I always stop at the Lavazza Mokà coffee bar here for a cappuccino before getting on the plane, and the quality of the wine and drinks at Santè is just as good as at any bar in Rome — including the authentic Aperol Spritz.
Luggage storage is available in Terminal 3, and it's open daily from 6:30am - 11:30pm. There's a flat €6 (about $7) per piece per 24 hours (or less), and payment is made at pick-up.
Transport to the City Center
Getting into town from Fiumicino is quite easy, and the fastest way by far is to take the train. The Leonardo Express trains run every 30 minutes and takes 32 minutes to reach Termini, nonstop. Tickets are €14 (about $16) one way. (There's also the suburban line FL1 that stops at all of Rome’s other train stations (Tiburtina, Ostiense and Trastevere) and costs €8 ($9), but be aware that this train does NOT stop at Termini.) Buses and taxis are also available, but given the legendary Roman traffic, I really don’t recommend taking them as you’ll just waste precious sightseeing time.
If You Have a Half Day
Having a half day in Rome feels like a tease, but you can still make the best of your woefully limited time.
Start by taking the train into town and beating the inevitable traffic. The central train station, Roma Termini, is fortunately at the intersection of two subway lines. Decide which of Rome’s iconic monuments you want to see before heading back: the Colosseum or the Spanish Steps/Trevi Fountain.
For the Colosseum, take line B toward Laurentina and get off at Colosseo. Once you’ve peeked around the Colosseum, stop at one of the bars on via Laterano for an Aperol Spritz while enjoying more views of the world’s most famous amphitheatre before heading back to Termini and the airport.
For the Spanish Steps, take Line A towards Battistini and get off at Spagna. Walk down the Spanish Steps and then down via di Propaganda towards the Trevi Fountain. Stop at Origano on via Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte 25/26 for some delicious pizza and a cappuccino if you’re running low on fuel. Keep walking and head down via Poli and you’ll run right into the Trevi Fountain. Make sure you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain and don't look back; this is how you'll ensure your return to Rome — and hopefully for longer than half a day next time. Catch the metro at Barberini back to Termini and then head back to the airport.
If You Have a Whole Day
Start off with the Colosseum and then jump on the metro up to Spagna and do the walk to the Spanish Steps mentioned above. A 10-minute walk from the Fontana di Trevi is Piazza delle Coppelle, a charming Roman piazza where you’ll find a fantastic wine bar at number 47. This bar doesn’t seem to have a name, but they do have four high tables outside made from old wine barrels, so you can’t miss it — and it's an ideal spot to have a drink and watch the sunset. Next door is Osteria da Mario, which serves up delicious and traditional Southern Italian fare. Grab some gelato on the always bustling Piazza Navona before heading back to the airport.
If You Have the Night
Accommodation on points is easy to find in Rome, as you'll see in Destination of the Week: Rome. However, I’d recommend the centrally located Regina Hotel Baglioni, which starts at $270 per night, or as an Amex FHR property, enables cardholders of the Amex Platinum or its business version perks to score perks like upgrades (when available), daily breakfast for two, free Wi-Fi and an €85 ($95) food and beverage credit. For a bit less, the ISA Design Hotel starts at about €204 ($229) per night and also has a great location (near the Vatican), as well as a cool, modern feel. If you're looking to splurge, check out the glorious St. Regis Rome, which has rates that start at €550 (about $616) or 20,000 Starwood points per night.
If you want to stay near the airport, the most convenient option is the 517-room Hilton Rome Airport Hotel, just a five-minute covered walk from FCO. All rooms are soundproofed and provide free Wi-Fi access, and there are two on-site Italian restaurants, a bar and an indoor rooftop pool with an outdoor deck. Rates start at about €185 ($207) or 60,000 Hilton Honors Points.
No matter where you stay, be sure you leave time to go to Come il Latte (via Silvio Spaventa 24/26), where you’ll find what I think is undoubtedly the best gelato in Rome — which is not a claim made lightly, I assure you!