Rome's Fiumicino Airport: a brief history

From the Olympic Games to the trials of covid, the story of Rome's main airport.

Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport, better known as Fiumicino, opened to air traffic on 20 August 1960, five days before the start of the city's Olympic Games.

The airport, viewed as a symbol of restart during Italy's post-war economic boom, was inaugurated officially on 15 January 1961.

Photo credit: Aeroporti di Roma (AdR)

Designed to cope with increasing demand for flights to the Italian capital, the new airport came about after two designs were merged: plans by Riccardo Morandi and Andrea Zavitteri were combined with those by Amedeo Luccichenti and Vincenzo Monaco.

The final project was approved in August 1958 and the construction works lasted 21 months, during which the remains of five ancient Roman ships were discovered.

During the 1960 Olympics, Fiumicino (FCO) was used to help alleviate Rome's other airport, Ciampino.

Fiumicino did not become fully operational however until 15 January 1961, with the landing of the first airliner: the Twa Lockheed Constellation, from New York.

Located about 35 km southwest of the centre of Rome, Fiumicino consisted of just two runways in the 1960s, with a third one added in 1973 along with a new hangar to accommodate Boeing 747s.

In recent years the airport has won multiple awards, however its level of organisation and customer service was not always at the high level it enjoys today.

Over the past six decades the airport has also been affected by tragic events such as the terrorist attacks in 1973 (32 dead) and in 1985 (13 dead).

Photo credit: Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock.com

Fiumicino suffered a setback too with a fire on 7 May 2015, which spread to Terminal 3, causing considerable disruption but no serious injuries.

Fiumicino has recently undergone an extensive modernisation programme and has been to the forefront in technological development, becoming the first Italian airport to install e-gates.

The airport has also achieved much success with awards, including among passengers, and in 2019 it welcomed around 44 million passengers.

2020 was perhaps Fiumicino's most difficult year to date, due to the coronavirus pandemic, however the airport rose to the challenge by enforcing strict covid regulations.

The airport was also recently recognised by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for its commitment to sustainability.

In May 2022 the airport inaugurated a massive new boarding area linked to Terminal 1, equipped with 23 gates, following a investment of €400 million by its management company Aeroporti di Roma (AdR).

In June 2022 Fiumicino was rated Best European Airport for the fourth time in the last five years, an international recognition awarded by Airports Council International (ACI) in the category of hubs with more than 40 million passengers.

Cover image credit: Francesco Lorenzetti / Shutterstock.com.

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Address Aeroporto internazionale Leonardo da Vinci (FCO), Fiumicino, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy

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Rome's Fiumicino Airport: a brief history

Aeroporto internazionale Leonardo da Vinci (FCO), Fiumicino, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy