New terminals, new looks
I love airports, always have. There is nothing quite like meandering through a busy terminal in search of something, well, anything to entertain me. Over the past few years, my airport thrills have upgraded from shoe shines and newsstands to manicures, massages and munchies. Finally, I am proud to say that Rome’s Fiumicino airport FCO has joined the trend, upgrading terminals T1 and T3 and putting the airport on the map as one of the best in Europe.
Whether it’s on-the-fly shopping at crazy clever vending machines (love you, Benefit in CVS and Sugarfina in LaGuardia!) to just about everything at Changi Singapore’s Theatre of Experience. it’s a good time to be stuck at an airport. T1 (domestic and Schengen) and T3 (international, non-Schengen) have been completely restyled with new boutiques, cafes and dining options, technology and art and architecture.
Shopping and boutiques
My husband does not enjoy Duty Free for one reason: there is no way to avoid it, you have to walk through the entire area so make the best and take a photo inside the larger-than-life Kinder egg. I love walking through Duty Free because its a shopping refresher on new perfumes, mini-beauty care and most importantly, prettily packaged Italian food items like delicious torrone and Dolce & Gabbana panettone (during the holiday season), or limoncello and cookies anytime of the year.
Everything starts at Duty Free, that vast maze of luxe shopping once you’ve cleared passport control in T3. Part of the Aelia Duty Free lineup, Duty Free is a curated Las Vegas of great and non-always essential but sometimes last minute beauty, drink, food and tobacco items- brands that we all know and love. T1 also has a Duty Free mall, immediately upon heading to the terminal, with almost the same offerings.
For discount shoppers, T3 has the Tax Free Mall, where you’ll find all the boutiques you love from Gallo and Intimissimi to Bodega Veneta, Bulgari, Fendi, Gucci and Hermes. T1 also has shops as well but not quite the selection, however, it will suffice if you need a last minute gift or item.
The beauty of shopping at the airport is the exemption of the 22% VAT, but for those who shopped in Rome and filled out the forms for tax refunds, there are dedicated refund counters in both terminals. The savvy shopper, or those who find airports completely overwhelming and/or need assistance, ADR offers a personal shopper service which you can contact in advance (via WhatsApp) to reserve exactly what you want – size, color, and model. Conceivably, you could shop in Rome, reserve and purchase at FCO.
Eats and Treats
When I first wrote about FCO, I think there was one restaurant and one coffee shop in each terminal and I hated each. And slowly a few appeared, some Michelin-curated arrived and left. Times keep changing, but happily both T1 and T3 offer a great selection of restaurants and coffee to suit all kinds of hungry travelers.
According to my family, T3 has the best food offers because they love the Ramen restaurant Ajisen, and Darius loves Beercode. Beer and burgers, what could be better? Salads for the vegetable-inclined. We get our last cappuccino and long haul flight snacks at Chef Market and Caffe Kimbo, and last minute chocolate at Venchi.
T1 is a different vibe because layovers are short as well as flights. What this means is there is not a true restaurant offering, but if you do find yourself with time for a meal there is a large Eataly in the Terminal’s hall immediately after Duty Free.
Personally, I am partial to the coffee shops in the main hall of T1, a luminous gate departure area with small coffee shops in the center areas. If your flight is on the inferior level, there are some coffee shops as well, but I like the offerings as well as the architecture on the main level.
T1 Pier A is also the first to debut Ottobot, an autonomous delivery robot dog who ambles around the terminal. The idea is that passengers scan a QR code to purchase food, beverage and retail items and Ottobot delivers them to the desired gate. I haven’t called Otto yet, but next time.
Art and Architecture
When T3 Boarding E finally opened, I was amazed by its “cracked” matrix ceiling. Futurist architecture, clean lines and lots of open space, T3 feels like international. T1 definitely has the same vibe with its floor-to-ceiling windows and tear drop ceiling. The architecture feels light and the overall vibe is easy, breezy navigation. Just what I like in an airport.
One of the best initiatives Aeroporti di Roma has put into place is incorporating art and culture in FCO. Through the main halls of both terminals, there are grand pianos for guests to play and in my experience, they are played by music lovers. I’ve caught impromptu concerts of Listz, Bach and Faurè. It creates a nicer atmosphere.
It should also come as no surprise that FCO celebrates Rome’s artistic heritage with a curation of art – contemporary and ancient. Ancient statues and mosaics from Ostia Antica (nearby archaeology park) are found all over T3. Meanwhile T1 takes it up a notch with ancient statues, frescos and mosaics, as well as a contemporary art installation (main hall) and now the newly installed sculpture Salvator Mundi by Baroque’s wonder-boy GianLorenzo Bernini. I still haven’t had a chance to see it.
There are lounges and then there are lounges. FCO as international portal to the world as well as Schengen layover has a few great lounge areas in Terminal 3 that cater to frequent flyers members. My friend Charlotte swears by the British Airways lounge. Of course she does, she’s British. But everybody says the best lounge is Emirates, with its in-lounge boarding area.
My favourite lounge in T3 is ITA Piazza di Spagna. Completely rebranded since its Alitalia days, ITA lounge features gorgeous Bitossi art pieces, Richard Ginori flatware, and a lot of blue because that it is Italy’s national color. The lounge chairs are comfy, the bathrooms are lovely and spacious, and food is always foremost. There is an open buffet all day, changing from breakfast to lunch to dinner, and a gorgeous open kitchen with live cooking demonstrations. It’s a cool hangout for ITA Business Class, Volare Executive and Premium members and Elite Plus Skyteam passengers.
T1 also has a ITA lounge Piazza Venezia, as well as a Star Alliance. Additional lounges include Plaza Premium Lounge (T3 area E) and Prima Vista in T1 and T3. There is also HelloSky Arrival Lounge & Air Rooms, but this is outside the airport.