Question: You are stuck in an airport for a few hours. Do you:
a) complain about the delay with non-stop texts and tweets?
b) go gallivanting on an airport exploration?
I am definitely 'b'. Ever since I became a solo flyer, I act as if am some kind of aviation hub Shackleton who needs to discover all charted and uncharted nooks and crannies in every airport. Back in the day, layovers were drawn out and boring, entertainment for me was shoe shines and finding discarded New York Times (I'm looking at you CTL). Now, I find myself hanging out in the free tech hubs, chatting up pet owners in the animal recreation areas, enjoying some me time in the meditation zones and 10-minute manicure station, and even photographing the haze rise in those crazy glassed in smokers' areas. But this is old news, airports have gotten not just better, but have become award-winning destinations unto themselves.
This brings me to Fiumicino, Rome's FCO, aka Leonardo da Vinci, and it's new Terminal 3. First and foremost, thanks to a history of baggage issues, strikes, and indefinitely "under construction" areas FCO never ranks near the top 100 hundred of the World's Best Airports, nor does it come remotely close Europe's Top Ten (and yes, Munich is that awesome). I'll admit I'm very partial to my hometown airport, probably because I always rumpled FCO tag on my bag and, yes, it's always my final destination. It's got a worn charm - the bad and the good, especially Terminal 1 and its bumper crop of shops- Gallo and Fabriano are excellent for last minute "Rome" gifts, good coffees spots and great pharmacy, and random souvenirs. It's always had a Look at Me, I'm Not Trying vibe that I find endearing because it's Roman through and through.
Nostalgia aside, FCO has long been in need of both a makeover and a reboot that makes passengers not just happy to have landed in Rome, but happy to hangout. As Italy's main airport and one of the busiest portal airport to cities throughout Europe and Mediterranean basin destinations, FCO has an incredible amount of of in transit traffic. And many of them are US passengers heading to destinations around the basin area, whose first and possibly only glimpse of Rome is FCO's Terminal 5. Now it's not just a great cappuccino that gives reason to enjoy the layover. Say hello to your next airport hangout, the newly-opened Terminal 3.
Welcome to T3 Gate E, an uber-modern terminal for out-of-Schengen flights. Departing for London? In transit to Kiev, Cairo, Dubai? This is your domed-in 90,000 square foot playground. Bored? Walk around. Inspired by Rome's via dei Condotti and Piazza di Spagna, the ground level is a last-minute shopper's (or window-shopper's fantasy). A 21st century duty-free Piazza di Spagna with Hermes, Versace, Fendi, Moncler, Bulgari, Gucci, Ferragamo, Dolce and Gabbana, and more, along with more affordable brands like Furla, Sunglass Hut, Unieuro and Benetton which means you’ll save the 22 percent VAT. And of course, there are the Duty-Free shops, an atrium center with the expected make up, liquor and cigarettes and a devoted Italian and Made-in-Italy section- treats like olive oils, liqueurs, candies and chocolate, as well as an easy (yes, very easy) Tax-Free counter with an Essie display in the check out line. I know, I know Essie has been in Rome for a while but never the color Chinchilly - found at T3! If shopping isn't your bag, there are lounges, finally, a lot of seats, free WiFi, and a series of classical music concerts organized by Rome's oratory Santa Cecilia.
Hungry? The Upper Level is Food Court v 2, a stylized lounge and dining area hyping Italian delicacies at Bongustare and Chef markets , and three Italian menu restaurants and 2 caffes and Cristina Bowerman's eno-fab/Autogrill collab Assaggio Taste of Wine on the ground level. That's a lot right? For a change of taste, there's Beercode - a beer-centric, burger bar restaurant, and Ajisen Ramen, the Japanese insta-soup chain. But most importantly, there is Attimi, Michelin star chef Heinz Beck's venture into "fast food".
Attimi is clever, next gen and very Beckian, in particular his interpretations of sustainable haute cuisine, and in this case, transit. The menu is made of "moments" (attimi in Italian), smaller dishes that highlight Beck's elemental style and fusion background, and pay attention to the temporal concerns of the traveler. Fast food? Kind of. In addition to a la carte - for table and to go service, Attimi has three timed menus - 30, 45 and 60 minutes (yes, he is holding an hour glass in the photo). A gimmick? No, more like a call to arms to both himself and other Michelin chefs who are definitely longing for a new gastro-challenge to hit the tables.
Travelers, remember all U.S. carriers serving FCO use T5 for check-in, and move to other terminals (including 3), as do the super-connectors such as Lufthansa. Once inside, passengers have the opportunity to travel within and around the FCO gates but it's always a good idea to check first both for timing and logistics. With the opening of T3, I'm hoping that FCO is also opening its eyes to user experience - in short, how quality, service and experience will keep us interested as we wait for our next flight.