Ode to da Vinci

January 24, 2013

I generally hate airports in the US, full of stale air and rushing hordes. Mouths chomping on burritos big as birch logs. Eyes glued to the Screamers on CNN or bright laptop contraptions. (OK, OK, I’m guilty, too.)

But the Rome airport? I’m in love.

First you hear: Signori e Signore, Benvenuti a l’Aeroporto Internazionale Leonardo da Vinci. (Is there any other country in the world that would name a major airport after a Renaissance artist?)

You step off the plane and inhale the sugary elixir of caffè latte.


People nibble away at the bars–they’d never be caught dead taking their food to a gate. Brutta figura!

The airport is steamy, even in winter.

Rome airport ad, copyright Jann Huizenga

At the Rome airport, copyright Jann Huizenga

At the Rome airport, copyright Jann HuizengaAt the Rome airport, copyright Jann Huizenga

At the Rome airportOf course there were some americani at the Rome airport, and I eavesdropped on them for you:

1. Woman in coffee bar:  “I waited at the counter for five whole minutes, and then they told me I had to go pay first at the cash register, where I waited another five minutes. And after all that time, look what I get! A teeny cup with a few drops of thick black stuff on the bottom.”

Husband: “It’s called Italian coffee.”


2. Texan in line behind me: “I’ll be so glad to get home.”

Woman in her tour group: “Really?”

“I didn’t like the food here.”


“Not spicy enough.”


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53 comments to Ode to da Vinci

  • Gil

    If I’m not mistaken, the cafe in the top picture is where I got my first cup of Espresso in Italy upon arrival at FCO..The airport itself was chaotic, but in a good way. We went on a bus to our ship in Cerevicchia and the lady escorting us to the bus did a great job of keeping the agressive cabdrivers away from us, lol.I can’t wait to get back..Italy was one of the few places in my life i hated to leave.

    • Jann

      Then it’s a real landmark for you Gil!!! One never forgets one’s first cup of coffee in Italy–such a revelation of what coffee should be.

  • Anitre MacDonagh

    Rome FCO is the only airport I dress up for on my way to Sicilia. We aim to connect there rather than Milano. It’s so civilised and stylish. You captured the vibe perfectly in your photos. Brava, Jann!

    • Jann

      Anitre–I love people who dress up for flights! That would NOT be me, however. By the time I fly in from New Mexico, I look an absolute wreck.

  • Ian Henry

    Hi jan hope you are well,sorry for not being in touch sooner,just recovering from having a knee replacement operation,home now all good, but piano, piano!for a few weeks, we love rome airport, if not a bit nuts sometimes, but there are a lot of flights going through, may be soon to comiso! Both Jenny and I really enjoy your site, it makes us long to be back there, keep up the good work, back for the Easter festival at modica with some friends and yes via Rome. See you soon Ian.

  • Damn, I don’t remember such scenery at the other Rome airport … I forget its name, starts with a C and is a funny bus ride from the Eternal City. How wonderful … old-fashioned sexiness! Real glamour! Nothing like it.

    Rome is my favourite city. Such joy, such life!

  • I haven’t flown through Roma yet but we probably will this summer. It sounds wonderful and quintessentially Italian. BTW, I agree with you about most airports, but the airport inVancouver is a treat to fly through!

    • Jann

      Diane, Vancouver is such a civilized city in a stunning location. A jewel. I remember the airport from my one visit.

  • Rome is probably my favourite place in the world. I feel like my soul comes home when I go to Rome. Without any disrespect, I find that many Americans tend to expect to find things here in Europe the exact same way they are in America and seem to fail to realise that this part of the world dances to the beat of a very different drum.

  • Fantastic Jann! You captured it perfectly! No where else in the world even comes close……. Bentornati! 🙂

  • That is one sexy airport, we will be flying into Milan airport so I will be checking for the coffee and the blush worthy adverts!! Great images xx

  • Sandee wheeler

    I always feel like I will miss an important announcement if I am not right by my gate! Hence the eating and setting up camp at the gate! The fear of missing out!

  • Classic Jann! What can I say? Apart from the thrill of being back in Italy when you arrive there FCO has an incredible vibe, much more provincial Romano than high powered world capital and every one dresses so much better. The sense of being back in the land of passion is palpable. Not to mention the coffee. LOVE THIS POST!!!! xx

  • —Ahhhh, a melting pot of delectable beauty, strong expresso, & saucy scents.

    I Loooove love love. Xxxxx Kissssssss

  • jan walcott

    Che sorpresa! We must have arrived/departed from some different gates at Fiumicino!!! Has there been some upgrading in the last couple of years? I agree that the coffee bars are great, but have encountered some “bagni” that were pretty gross, along with American behaviors that were also cringeworthy. But hey, arriving in Italy is always awesome, regardless whether it is Rome, Firenze, or wherever!

  • Oh, Jann, thank you so much for this post. I’ve been to Fiumicino a bazillion times and it’s such a GREAT airport, a window into the soul of Italians, and your photos bring it all back. Love the espresso spill—perfection.

    • Jann

      Yes, Susan–exactly!!! Many international airports feel sterile–you feel like you could be anywhere, but in FCO you feel you’ve really arrived in Italy.

  • What about the new mozzarella bar at the airport! I ate there last time I flew out of Rome and I will be doing so again in May when I fly back to Australia. I love that you can get great coffee and food even at railway stations here in Italy.

    • Jann

      Mmm. Yum. I will look for this next time I’m there. And, yes, great coffee is even available at gas stations along highways. Now that’s my definition of civilization.

  • Again…thank you for the sharing and bringing back so many memories…..
    Your writing and photos are always exceptional..

  • Debra Roppolo

    Oh, you made me miss Fiumicino!! As for the rest…some people don’t deserve Italy!! I feel like I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in almost a year and a half.

  • Nancy

    Jann, I agree with all of the above. I love the aromas, listening to the language, shops, etc. BUT, my last 2 experiences with the Rome airport were ‘unorganized’ on the part of the airlines and/or FCO personnel. I hope my next visit is better.

    • Jann

      Oh, dear, Nancy… Sorry to hear that. I’ve had some long delays there, too–especially a few years ago when Alitalia was in dire straits, but at least you’ve got some good food and shops to get you through…

  • che bello…..it’s a good welcome to Italy!
    I didn’t know that our airport are so nice to foreigners….when I travel I find airport abroad much more “in order”….but , no good Italian coffee ..
    this is absolutely what every Italian miss abroad: Espresso that we simply call “caffè” because for US nothingelse can be called coffee .
    I can’t see my American tourists pouring water on an Espresso or to drink “un caffè americano”… 😉
    what about food? not enough spicy?..ah ah ah she should travel southerner than Rome and try!
    grazie Jann
    each time your photoes, your comment make me smile and give me an interesting different perspective, not so different sometimes!

  • John Ferguson

    And I let people go ahead of me so I can admire the “artwork”.

  • Liz

    I’ll never forget my first trip to Italy. As soon as I arrived in Rome, stepped off the plane, walked through the terminal, smelled the wonderful smells,heard the clink of tiny cups, heard the Italian language being spoken( it sounded like music to my ears), looked at all the beautiful images on the walls, I had such an amazing feeling come over me. Being the grand daughter of an Italian immigrant, I had never felt so much like I was home. The feeling of belonging there was overwhelming. I feel that way everytime I arrive at Da Vinci…so far a total of 8 times, and looking forward to the 9th…

  • Jill

    Haha….I guess I’m not the only one to eavesdrop on Americans in airports….and often why I keep my mouth shut! What do they say? Better to remain silent and have others think you’re stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt??

    • Jann

      Eavesdropping is an entertaining pastime. If I have my computer open, I just type whatever I hear. Beware!

  • “Imagine” that an airport named after an artist. This is a quiz!!!

    • Jann

      Ciao Dennis–ha ha. Sorry it took me so long to take your quiz. I was felled by the flu. So, once again you sent me scrambling to Google to find out that there is a Liverpool John Lennon airport. Lovely. Did I pass?

  • Jann, these Americani, what do they know! hee hee! I’m afraid that if I had been the one to listen to the coffee comment, I wouldn’t have been able to restrain myself! Such blasphemy! ha! These photos simply jump off the page! Methinks the Rome airport is nothing short of sexy! And fabulous! So fabulous! Alas, I’ve only been to the one in Milan but would you believe I had the best coffee of my life there? I must move to Italy. I must, or else I fear I shall wither away and die. Hugs! 🙂

    • Jann

      Blasphemy–exactly! Next time I hear anyone denigrate an Italian cup of coffee, I SHALL NOT let it pass!

  • I love it Jann. You capture Fiumicino (what most people call the Roma airport – despite the lovely full name, I have never actually heard anyone call it Leonardo da Vinci) perfectly! I am laughing out loud! Thanks 🙂

  • I wonder if that Texan woman found the ads in the airport spicy enough.

  • All I can say is what my dad used to say Managgia L’America!
    I know if I stepped off a plane in Rome tears would come to my eyes at the meer smell of the coffee! It would be heaven.

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