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. 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 and I am happy to say that Roma Fiumicino FCO has finally joined in the mix. In 2017, FCO joined the airport entertainment trend, restyling T1 and T2 with a smattering of cute shops, cafes and dining options, but the biggest upgrade was the opening of the new terminal T3. I was impressed and I told you all about it.
It’s been a few years, and T3 has flourished. And if we’re going to get pick, it’s all about Boarding E, Terminal 3 – with its crazy architecture – a “cracked” matrix ceiling – and knockout gastro-luxe line up of Michelin chef fast food and boutiques.
Let’s start at the beginning. Everything starts at Duty Free. Once you’ve cleared passport control and in order to get anywhere in E, you have to walk through the Duty Free labyrinth of endless eye candy. Part of the Aelia Duty Free lineup, T3 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. 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. FYI: Caffe Sant’ Eustachio is not sold in Duty Free so you’ll need to purchase directly to the source in Rome.
When you’ve finally made it out of Duty Free, you’ve entered the matrix – the Tax Free Mall. I love when a location name aptly fits its purpose. The Tax Free mall takes up the entire ground level of Boarding E tunnel. It is a long forum with primarily luxury shops like Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Gucci, MaxMara, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s, and Valentino. Yes, this is the spot for those who want to shop Italian luxury brands but were possibly intimidated or overwhelmed by the craze of via dei Condotti and Piazza di Spagna. I know, I know, why shop here? First of all, everything here is exempt of the 22% VAT, which means, secondly, you don’t have to wait in line to get your VAT refund. According to the ADR website, there is a personal shopper service which you can contact in advance (via WhatsApp) to reserve exactly what you want – size, color, and model- so conceivably you could shop in Rome, reserve and purchase at FCO.
Truth be told, I have never sought out a manicure or massage spot in T3- odd because getting a 10-minute airport manicure is one of the best ways to start out a trip. Unfortunately, there are no (longer any) Be Relax Spas in FCO but as of September 2019, RestArt has set up in it dry float zero gravity spa in Boarding E. I love the idea of floating away my layover. If I could find it, I would try it.
Eats and Treats
When I first wrote about T3, I think there was one restaurant and one coffee shop. TImes have changed and now the selection of restaurants and coffee shops in Terminal 3 Boarding E suits all kinds of hungry travelers- from bar service and take out to sit down and sweets. Here is the definitive list as of December 2019.
Attimi: Michelin star chef Heinz Beck curates gourmet fast food with 30 and 60 minutes, as well as take out. Tip: Excellent pastries and coffee.
Bottega: Prosecco bar for all your pre-flight bubblies. Inspired by the Venetian bacaro, the menu serves cicchetti, bite-sized appetizers as well as some primi.
Beercode: Beer and burgers, what could be better? Salads for the vegetable-inclined.
Farinella: Neapolitan-style pizzas, primi and secondi. Keep in mind: everything here is from Napoli so sweet tooth, you will want to try the morning pastries and coffee.
Ajisen: Japanese Ramen
Old school Italy lovers will head to Caffe Kimbo, while we always end up at Bistrot FCO (part of the Autogrill group) for its great coffees and smoothies, and vegan options. Other options include Chef Market. Heading to your gate? There is an Illy Caffe (I love the coffee cups here) and a Caffe Vergnano (I love this company) by Gates E11-24, and Lavazza by E51-61. If you need that very last gelato, there is a Venchi shop- and I do advise purchasing their hot cocoa powder. It is divine.
There are lounges and then there are lounges, and being the international portal to the world as well as Schengen layover, T3 has a bunch. My friend Charlotte swears by the British Airways lounge. Of course she does, she’s British. My Star Alliance friends always head to the Star Alliance lounge, which is supposedly a Prima Vista VIP lounge. But I prefer hometown favorite Casa Alitalia Piazza di Spagna, it is open to Skyteam Elite passengers [I’ve heard you can buy an entry pass, depending on availability, for 50$], and let’s just say I want to give Alitalia as much love as I can for as long as it lasts. Winning points for Alitalia: I love the design and the customer service. The lounges are comfy, the bathrooms are lovely and there is a game room. Because they are Italian-owned, food is always foremost. There is an open buffet all day, changing from breakfast to lunch to dinner, and a gorgeous open kitchen (with Richard Ginori dishes!) with live cooking demonstrations. The coffee is Lavazza and the barista know how to make perfect coffee drinks.
Is Terminal 3 my favorite? In Italy, it sure is. When you have time, FCO is a very walkable airport – moving walkways et al, and, as you can see, FCO is very dog friendly. Benvenuti!