In Praise of an Airport–Specifically Fiumicino Airport in Rome

Let's Go to Italy Together!Yes, you read that right, praise – and long overdue praise, I might add!

You hear a lot of jokes about Italian efficiency (or lack of it) but I’m here to tell you that I have had quite a few experiences that contradict (and actually blow apart) that stereotype…

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Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) Airport in Rome

My most recent and dramatic example occurred at the very end of my last trip  and I was heading home from Rome. I typically arrive at Fiumicino Airport (Leonardo da Vinci)  the day before my departure and stay at a nearby hotel. Then I take the local shuttle back to the terminal…no problem…

On this particular morning, there was a crush of people on the shuttle schlepping way more baggage than anyone should ever need (unless they were staying for months!) on vacation. I was lucky to squeeze on and get a seat. Many of the passengers were confused about which terminal to take and I was trying to be helpful with advice but…I broke one of my travel golden rules:

NEVER bring more luggage/baggage, etc. than you can manage alone. In other words, ALWAYS be “in touch” with all of your belongings. Yes, ALWAYS!

Well, somehow my duffle bag that I carry on slipped off my shoulder and, although I was touching it, well, in my haste to squeeze off the shuttle with all of my bags before the doors slammed shut, enter the terminal, and locate my check-in counter… as I started to get in line, I realized that I did not have it with me! My first response was to double-check that I had all of my documentation and tickets with me and I did. Whew!

After my initial adrenaline rush of sheer panic, I took a deep breath and ran out to the curb to find someone in uniform to help me. Fortunately I had taken an early shuttle and had some time before checking in, boarding, etc. but…

Finding what looked like airport security, I tried to remain calm and explain my situation. Between my limited Italian and his limited English, with lots of hand gestures, I was able to tell him that it was a hotel shuttle, the color of the bag and enough details for him to help me locate it. He got on his cell phone and also summoned another co-worker to accompany me. We had to try to find the shuttle and hope that the bag would still be on it…

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Fiumicino Airport in Rome is HUGE!

Well, if you’ve ever been to Fiumicino Airport in Rome, you know that it is HUGE! After all, with 40.5 million passengers in 2015, it is one of the busiest airports in Europe. So, do the math – that’s well over 100,000 passengers per day!

So, we started off at a fast clip to the point where all shuttles stop. And so there we stood, waiting waiting waiting for the hotel shuttle to find its way back…one of many shuttles…

As we stood and waited and I tried not to show my anxiety and check my watch every 30 seconds, I observed the airport staff answering questions (often the same questions), and repeating instructions and directions to travelers of every ilk. It occurred to me that you seldom see people relaxed and smiling at airports —there’s an air of tension, anticipation, and oftentimes frustration, impatience, confusion, and even irritation. And I realized, having this opportunity to gain a new perspective on what it is like to work  in that mood/environment on a daily basis…it has to be challenging and often stressful.

V - luggage

Thanks to airport staff in Rome, my duffle bag came home with me!

I had total faith that my bag wouldn’t be stolen and would be turned over to the shuttle driver or hotel staff. Possible scenarios and options tumbled around in my head if I had to leave for my flight and leave my bag behind… How I could call the hotel and ask if the bag was found/returned to them and if not, what would I do? I started making mental notes of the contents, what I would lose if it didn’t find its way back to me…

We waited and waited…I took very deep breaths…and then, a gentleman in a suit walked toward us as he was finishing a call on his cell and he said the magic words, “We have located your bag.” I felt such a rush of relief and gratitude…

He stood with us and in a few minutes a shuttle—the shuttle I remembered and recognized— pulled up and driver handed my bag down to us. I expressed my “grazie mille” to the driver and as the gentleman started to board the shuttle (to get a lift back to his office I presume), I asked his name and rushed to shake the hand of Michele and express my heartfelt grazie da cuore for his help. He smiled, waved and was off and then my other helper, walked me back to my terminal and check-in counter.

When we got there, he started off and I asked his name. I reached to shake Vito’s hand and to thank him, too, for his help. In his minimal English he replied, “It’s what I do, it’s my job.”

Indeed, people just doing their job…and deserving a shout out and praise for doing it day after day, often without recognition or credit.

As I boarded the plane for my flight home, my bag safely stowed under the seat in front of me, I sighed a sigh of relief and sent a silent thanks to Michele, Vito and the other airport security for just doing their job and for finishing my trip with a happy ending!

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My only regret is that I didn’t take photos or reach out  and express my thanks to airport management sooner. I doubt they will ever see this post but they will always have my gratitude!

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Have you ever had a GOOD experience in an airport? I would love to hear about it!

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19 Responses to In Praise of an Airport–Specifically Fiumicino Airport in Rome

  1. Vino Travels says:

    Gosh, nothing like an airport experience. I landed in Florence and was so excited to be back I got inside to check my bag and left my carry on wallet with all my documents and money on the plane. Good ol florence let me run back out to the plane on the tarmac to get it ; )

    • It is so easy to get flustered and lose track of our stuff! Breaking my own rule of not having too many bags to keep track of taught me a lesson – slow down, take a deep breath, make sure you have everything, then…off you go!

  2. Whew…that was close! We’ve flown in and out of Fiumincino a few times and except for last time…not a problem with the aeroporto…it was the taxi situation…but still after a long flight the last thing you need is confusion on trying to find a “legal” taxi. The fire earlier in the year had rather messed things up a bit and made things confusing! Next time will be so much better!

    • It was close and, considering the size and number of passengers, etc. at Fiumicino and so many other large airports, a minor miracle! It restores ones faith in that we have to remember that most people are trying to do the right thing–Travel can be confusing and frustrating and we will “mess up” but it’s how things end up that counts! I’ve decided to always have a “happy ending” to my travels, haven’t you? 😀

  3. I loved reading this post, Victoria…An amazing story with a happy ending. Kudos to those Italian airport employees and shuttle drivers. I doubt that this would have happened with the same type of ending in many other places. Great read!

    • Grazie, Margie…I love that you loved reading it! It’s been on my “to do” list for some time! Many folks in the travel industry don’t have enviable jobs and saying “thank you” means a lot to them. It was a happy ending in that I got my bag but the experience itself was pretty special…and a lesson remembered on my part! LOL

  4. Tony says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing. Happy to hear that the staff was so helpful and accommodating!

    • Grazie, Tony. We hear so much “bad” & negative news, I wanted to take the time for something positive. I do believe that most people are just trying to do their jobs the best they can, don’t you? I find that traveling is much more enjoyable if we believe that!
      Thank you again for “stopping by” and taking the time to comment!

  5. Yes…I agree…happy ending…why come home with a bad taste. Our leaving from Fiumincino in October was perfect…on time, etc. It was Heathrow that presented the problems…how we hate Terminal 3!. Still this stuff happens and it’s about the time spent having a great trip…we try to not think about how crappy the airlines are these days. Sure wish passengers could have some impact on the conditions in “steerage”…

  6. There is definitely something to be said for scaling back the luggage having to lug the stuff all over the place is crazy. Learned that lesson 1st trip! Now…it’s one for each of us and a carry-on each…sometimes I don’t even bother with that. There is something to be said staying in a place with a washing machine…a big Plus in our books…and we use those plastic bags for our clothes…the ones that you squish the air of of and roll up…they do double duty on the way home…a great way to keep the wine secure! And shoes…man do they take up space…one pair of walking shoes and my Birks…I know crazy right…but I figure if I require something else I’ll just buy them!

    • We do learn the “hard way” – I definitely have scaled WAY back and do a lot of hand wash. I use baggies to squish and compress (see my page, Wardrobe Fatigue) Two pair of shoes is my limit as well – sometimes I even travel with a pair I’ll “leave behind”!
      Despite all this, when I’m traveling for 3-6 weeks, those small things accumulate.In any case…it all seems to work out and aren’t we so fortunate to have these “problems”??? LOL
      Safe & happy travels always, Phyllis–still looking to when we’ll be in the same place at the same time!

  7. Me too Victoria…and it will happen…I think my surgery may happen this year which may allow travel next! Fingers crossed!

  8. We would rather pay a bit more thanks! There’s cheap and then there’s a big pain you know where!

  9. It’s too bad that we are cause the “cheap seats” become more cramped, more uncomfortable every trip…the airlines would probably like to get rid of the seats and have up stand up the whole trip or something…sleeping pills…lots and try and sleep through the pain!

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