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The official name of the airport is Fiumicino – Aeroporto Internazionale Leonardo da Vinci though most people call it the Fiumicino or Rome airport. It’s 21 miles from the center of Rome, about a €40 cab ride. There are also train and bus links to the city. We were connecting from Palermo so we stayed overnight at the Hilton Garden Inn at Fiumicino whose redeeming quality is being the only hotel on the airport staff shuttle. It’s a bit confusing until you understand that it is not a hotel shuttle, its he Staff Shuttle, but it works and runs frequently. The hotel also had surprisingly good food that night.

Our flight to New York didn’t leave until 11:25 am, so we planned to do some last minute souvenir shopping with the remainder of our euros. We wanted a book about Italy with lots of photos, among other things. That’s when we discovered that the airport is not really Rome. It’s not really even Italy. It’s “International Airport,” where the only things for sale are high end jewelry and clothing, duty free shops, and restaurants. Further, the shops are all the same whether you are in Rome, New York, or Lima, Peru. This shift has been coming for a few years but really hit me on this trip.

There is a fold-up paper map of the airport showing the location of stores but no signs that show “You are here,” bathrooms, or airport lounges. You’re intended to wander aimlessly and shop. We stopped at several information desks where we were given vague directions. We were told at one desk that there is no bookstore in the airport any more. We passed three shops selling books after that. We were given directions to the Alitalia preflight lounge by three different people and hunted all along the terminal, finding only one sign for the lounge–outside the door. There are a few convenience stores that sell overpriced souvenirs, so we were able to get a couple of things, but be sure to do your shopping before you get to the airport unless you want a new Swatch, a Montblanc pen, or Tumi luggage.

On the bright side, if you have a layover at Fiiumicino for two hours or more, there is a free shuttle from the airport to the entrance of the Ostia Antica archaeological park, just a few minutes away. We had a wonderful day trip to Ostia from Rome. It would be a good use of a few hours to visit from Fiumicino, closer to the site than Rome itself.

Ostia Antica–Site Information