Airport review: Leonardo Da Vinci-Fiumicino, Rome, Italy

IATA CODE

FCO

THE FLIGHT

VY 6101 to Barcelona, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

Rome has two major airports, Fiumicino and Ciampino, and though the latter is closer to the city, Fiumicino is far easier to access thanks to its direct rail link to Roma Termini station. That's why I've chosen it, and that's how I'm getting there. The train from Termini costs €15 ($24) and takes 35 minutes. It's not exactly luxurious, but it is easy and fast.

THE LOOK

Remember when you played school sport and they used to hand out "most improved" awards to kids who weren't very good but needed a bit of encouragement? That's Fiumicino. It used to be a pretty horrible airport; however, extensive recent renovations have led to Rome's major hub being named Skytrax's Most Improved Airport in 2018. It needs encouragement, but it also deserves kudos – you can tell from the moment you set foot here that this isn't the Fiumicino of old.

CHECK-IN

This used to be a nightmare at Fiumicino but today there's only a short queue for my Vueling flight, and I'm checked through in 15 minutes.

SECURITY

This was another source of pain for travellers at the FCO of old; however, once again there's a pleasant surprise as I cruise through passport control and security in another 15 minutes or so.

FOOD AND DRINK

Best recent improvement at Fiumicino? It has to be the food. A focus on quality, Roman-style cuisine sounds like a no-brainer, but it's taken a long time for Fiumicino to harness its host city's culinary heritage. Now, terminal 1 has an airside food court with a range of decent eateries, including fresh pasta at Pastasciutta, Roman-style porchetta at Colosseum, pizza at Pizza Chef, coffee at Moka, and gelato at San Crispino. Most eateries can package up food for you to take on your flight, too.

RETAIL THERAPY

Rome is a major shopping destination and you can now continue your spree until the moment you set food in your aircraft. If you're flying to a non-EU country, you can access a tax-free mall with more than 50 retail stores, with famous Italian names such as Bulgari, Armani and Ermenegildo Zegna. Even if you're staying in Europe, the tax-free choices are impressive, with a focus on the fashion Rome does best.

PASSING TIME

There are seven airline lounges in Fiumicino, several of which can be accessed on a pay-per-visit basis. There's also free Wi-Fi throughout the airport, a business centre, a tourist information office, and several airport hotels, including a Hilton and a Best Western.

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ONE MORE THING

Here's something you don't see every day: Fiumicino offers a "personal shopper" service, a private guide to help you navigate the sprawling duty-free mall in the international departures area. These guides can either help you find the exact thing you're looking for or provide direction and advice for those a little less sure of themselves. The service is free and can be booked via email or WhatsApp. Impressive.

THE VERDICT

Fiumicino's recent "most improved" award comes with zero condescension. This airport, once something of a horror show, is now modern and pleasant, with great facilities, decent local food, and reduced queuing times. It's still not exactly Singapore Changi, but hey, baby steps.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

3.5

See also: Airport review: There's a reason why this is the world's best

See also: Melbourne T4 is modern, spacious, and infuriating

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