Rome’s 2 airports cater to different types of traffic: the hopelessly overcrowded Ciampino handles most low-cost carriers (with the notable exception of easyJet), while the larger Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino has regular flights, with pricier airlines. In 2011, 40 million passengers passed through Rome’s 2 airports. While Fiumicino is steadily expanding to meet the growing number of travelers, little Ciampino is hemmed in by a military airport on one side and by furious local residents on the other. Which airport should you use? Check out our guide to Rome’s airports.
Coming and Going
Cab service to the city center, which runs about $47, is by far the easiest way to access or exit Ciampino. But there are dedicated bus services, too, operated by Terravision, SIT and Schiaffini, with prices from $5 to $8 one way. At the city end, these services arrive and leave from Via Marsala, by the main Termini railway station. The journey time is about 45 minutes.
The fixed taxi fare from Fiumicino to the city center is about $60. But unless you want the ease and speed that a taxi provides, the regular direct trains (about $18) from the airport to Termini station are also a good bet. The train trip takes just over half an hour, while a cab can take between 20 minutes to more than an hour, depending on traffic and your destination. There’s also a stopping service (about $10), which may take you closer to your final destination.
However early your morning flight leaves from Ciampino, don’t even think of staying near the airport; it has no lodging options. You’re far better off staying in Rome itself. If you’re on a budget, there are many small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts around Via Marsala from where airport buses depart. Choose carefully, though. Some hotels near railway stations are run-down. But you can still find 5-star hotels and most things in between.
The only hotel within luggage-dragging distance of Fiumicino airport is the Hilton Rome Airport. The nearby seaside town of Fiumicino also has lodging options, most of which will arrange transfer to the airport for early flights. Still, the amount of extra sleep this will gain you compared with staying in Rome’s center is negligible.
If delayed flights or other mishaps leave you stranded at Ciampino, make sure you have a good book with you … or face despair. The airport has just a handful of uninspiring clothes and accessories outlets, as well as dull fast-food chains. For internet access, come equipped with your own mobile internet plan. Otherwise, you’ll have to use pay-terminals provided in the departure lounge.
The airport options at Fiumicino are considerably less desolate. The entire airport is covered by free Wi-Fi. And once in the departure lounge, you’ll find ample opportunity for last-minute purchases. Fiumicino includes boutiques with big-name Italian labels. You can also eat very well. You’ll find the airport outpost of Il gelato di San Crispino (arguably some of Italy’s best ice cream), plus Dei Frescobaldi Wine Bar.
Nearby Cultural Attractions
If the delay is really going to be a long one, grab a cab and explore the lovely hill towns of the Castelli Romani, a half-hour’s drive to the south. But beware, cab drivers will moan about being forced to drive in the opposite direction of the city, and the bill will be considerable.
For longer waits, take a cab ride to the little port of Fiumicino. Sprawling along the banks of the Tiber River Estuary, the town is full of the smells and sounds of the local fishing fleet, plus fishmongers selling their catch. For a colourful experience, take a walk along the canal and out to the headland where it meets the Mediterranean. Seafood restaurants here meet most budgets, from the super-chic Bastianelli to the far humbler Trattoria della Marina. For something a little more cultural, it’s a 20-minute cab ride from the airport to the spectacular ruins of ancient Rome’s port at Ostia Antica.
Long-time Italy resident Anne Hanley edits guidebooks and writes about Italian destinations for British and American publications when she isn’t designing gardens.