While traveling to Malta, my sister and I were faced with an 8.5-hour layover in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO). This was way too much time to waste at the airport and just enough to be able to get out and explore a little bit of the city.
Whether you’ve been to Rome before (like I had briefly, 10 years ago) or if it is your first time in the city (or maybe even your first time in Italy, like it was for my sister), I have tips to maximize your time and the perfect guide with a step-by-step itinerary for a taste of Rome on a layover.
How long does your layover need to be to leave the airport in Rome?
I would recommend a layover of at least 7 hours in Rome (we had 8.5 hours), although an 8+ hour layover in Rome is ideal. Only having a 6 hour layover in Rome might be cutting it a little close.
By the time you get off the plane and head through customs (unless you are coming from another destination in Italy) you typically lose an hour of your layover time. It takes 32 minutes to reach the city center by express train, which is the best way to get in and out of the city and avoid traffic. So, you have to factor in a little over an hour of travel time to get to and from the airport. Lastly, you also have to account for enough time to pick up your bags (if you stored them), check into your flight, go through security again, and get to your gate. Most airlines recommend arriving at least two hours before your departure time.
On our 8.5 hour layover, we ended up having a little less than four hours in Rome. Was it worth it? Definitely! And it certainly beat sitting at the airport all day when there were sites to be seen and Italian food to be eaten! 🙂
Tips to maximize time on your layover in Rome
- Before embarking on your trip, while you are on WiFi, download the offline maps app, Maps.me (if you don’t have it already), and download the Rome map. Add the locations for your itinerary (keep reading below), this part can be done without WiFi.
- Don’t waste any time at baggage claim. Travel with only carry-on luggage (I packed for 10 days in the SWISSGEAR 7850 Checklite 20″ Expandable Liteweight Pilot Case). If you do have a large checked bag make sure your luggage is checked through to your final destination. This may not be possible if your next flight is with a different airline, so if you checked bags you will have to pick them up and then head to luggage storage. We traveled with only carry-on luggage and recommend doing the same to save time.
- Store your bags at luggage storage (whether it is your carry-on or checked bag). The cost is 6 euro a bag for 24 hours (or less) and it is worth it not be hauling your luggage around Rome. You pay when you pick up your luggage. I recommend keeping a small backpack with you with your passport, wallet, any valuables, and of course – your camera! The SWISSGEAR 1651 City Pack Backpack was perfect for exploring Rome. Since I wanted to keep my laptop with me, we also carried the SWISSGEAR 1900 ScanSmart TSA Laptop Backpack with us.
- It’s best to have Euros (local currency) with you ahead of time, otherwise use the ATM in the airport next to where you will buy your train ticket to withdraw Euros.
- If you are on a long-haul flight, use the restroom in the airplane to change out of your travel clothes and freshen up so when you touch down in Rome you are ready to go. Alternatively, you can use the restroom in the airport (I recommend using a restroom before leaving customs so you are in one that isn’t accessible by the general public). My sister and I changed in the bathroom at baggage claim (since we didn’t need to wait for bags), before heading to luggage storage, but changing on the plane will maximize your time in Rome.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes! Walking is a quick, free, and easy way to get around Rome while also fully immersing yourself in the city. My Rome layover itinerary below includes a decent amount of walking, which is a great way to get some light exercise on a travel day, save money, and see Rome.
Points of Interest
On Maps.me search for and save the following locations:
- Roma Termini Station
- Spanish Steps (*if time and hunger allows)
- Food: Il Chianti Vineria (Via del Lavatore 81/82/82A, 00187 Rome)
- Trevi Fountain
- Gelato: The Gelatist (Via Nazionale 19A, 00184 Rome) or Al Conosseo (Via Cavour, 289, 00184 Roma)**
- Colosseo Metro Station (with a great view of the Colosseum)
**As a heads up, the gelato shops do not show up through the search tool on Maps.me, the closest point of interest to The Gelatist is “Hotel Fiori” and the closest point of interest to Al Conosseo is “Soggiorno Downtown”
Store your bags
After completing passport control and customs, head to Luggage Storage (if you have bags to store). Luggage storage (or “Left Baggage”) is located on the ground floor (street level) of Terminal 3, which is the International Arrivals area. When you exit customs after baggage claim in Terminal 3, the doors to the street will be in front of you, take a right and keep walking (past the Information Center, a few cafes, rental car stands) until you reach Luggage Storage (you will see signs for “Left Baggage” overhead).
It is open daily from 6:30am to 11:30pm. Each bag costs 6 euro to store per 24 hours (or less) and you pay when you pick up your bags. Make sure to keep your receipt with you so you can retrieve your bags.
Take the Leonardo Express train into the city
The Leonardo Express train is typically the quickest and most cost-effective way to reach the city from the airport. Avoid Rome’s notorious traffic! The 40-minute drive can easily become over an hour in traffic. The express train runs every 30 minutes and takes 32 minutes on a direct non-stop route to reach the main terminal (Termini) in Rome.
The train station is located in front of Terminal 3 arrivals (near Left Luggage, you only have to backtrack a short distance). Express ticket costs €14 EUR each way. You can purchase a ticket inside Terminal 3 or inside the train station at designated ticket machines at the entrance to the platforms. Make sure to select the Leonardo Express, as the other option (Sabina-Fiumicino line FR1) takes nearly double the time to reach the main terminal with multiple stops.
*Tip: Before getting on the train, make sure you scan your ticket to validate it using the yellow machines by the train platform. A conductor will come around the train and make sure you have a validated ticket, so don’t forget to do this to avoid a fine!
*Tip: Before leaving the main station in Rome (Termini), check to see what time the trains return back to the airport so you can plan to be back at the station at the right time. There is no point in getting to the station minutes after a train left and then having to sit nearly a half hour for the next one, that is valuable time that could be spent in the city. Also, remember which platform you got off on, as you will take the express train back on the same platform.
You’re in Rome!
You’ve made it! Instead of waiting around for buses, we decided to stretch our legs and walk to lunch. You can see much more on foot than you can in the metro or from a crowded bus window. Use Maps.me to guide you to lunch/dinner or if you are not starving (we were after our flight), head to the Spanish Steps to stop and snap a photo before making your way to lunch.
Taste of Italy!
You can’t come to Italy without trying authentic Italian food. Italian typically isn’t my favorite type of cuisine but there are few foods that rival authentic Italian food in Italy! It is amazing!
We ate at Il Chianti Vineria (Via del Lavatore 81/82/82A, 00187 Rome), which is conveniently located around the corner from the Trevi Fountain. While I usually recommend eating away from tourist attractions to avoid tourist traps (overpriced mediocre food), Il Chianti Vineria is an exception. The food was delicious and the prices were reasonable considering the location, which is necessary when you have limited time on a layover.
Be mindful that the service is slow, try to order as soon as you arrive and be ready with your payment as soon as they give you the check. Expect to spend about an hour here. Enjoy the atmosphere. We ate outside and it is a great location to admire the Italian architecture and people watch. There was even live music performed on the street as we ate.
I highly recommend ordering the ricotta cheese & spinach ravioli with truffle sauce, as it is hands down one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten (I will be dreaming about it until I return to Italy!). My sister and I also ordered pizza (prosciutto pizza) and the prosciutto and melon appetizer (if you can’t tell I love prosciutto haha).
Be aware of the hours you will be spending in Rome on your layover, we first tried two restaurants nearby, Colline Emiliane and Piccolo Buco, but both were closed because we arrived between lunch and dinner. Il Chianti Vineria had a limited menu during our mealtime (late afternoon) but we were still able to find the pasta and pizza we were looking for!
Make a wish and throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain! The legend has it that if you throw one coin in you will return to Rome one day (and hopefully have more time to explore haha). I threw one in on my first visit to Rome (10 years ago) and I found myself in Rome again, so it must be true! 😉 If you are on a budget, make sure not to throw in one or two euro coins (that’s a ride on the metro!). Use small change (or even a penny or small coin from your local currency that you wouldn’t be able to spend on your trip).
As a heads up, unless your layover is at the crack of dawn or the middle of the night, the Trevi Fountain will be extremely crowded! If you want a picture without anyone else in the photo, head right down to the fountain and be patient to find a seat on the edge, you will also have to be patient to find a moment when the person next to you gets up so you have a short window of opportunity to take photos “alone at the Trevi Fountain” (it’s really all about the angle).
Break up the beautiful walk from the Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum with gelato! The walk is just under a mile and around 20 minutes long depending on your walking speed/how often you stop to take photos. We first stopped at The Gelatist (Via Nazionale 19A, 00184 Rome), which is highly rated on Trip Advisor, but the line was long and we were short on time so we continued onward. We ended up getting gelato at Al Conosseo (Via Cavour, 289, 00184 Roma), which was also on the way and closer to the Colosseum.
You can’t leave Rome without a glimpse of its own World Wonder! From just outside the Colosseo metro station you will have a great view of the Colosseum, which is great for photo ops! Keep your eye on the time so you allow yourself enough time to get back to the main terminal.
Metro from Colosseo to Termini
Head into the Colosseo metro (Americans, think subway) station and buy a single metro ticket for €1.50 EUR. You can use the digital machines to purchase a ticket (there is an English option). Get on the blue line towards in the direction of Termini (where you will get off), which is three stops from Colosseo. The blue line comes every 10 minutes and it is less than a three-minute ride to Termini from Colosseo.
*Tip: Wear your backpack as a “frontpack” when in the metro station and while riding the metro. You will see others doing the same (wearing their backpack on their front instead of back). Not only does it make space for more riders, it allows you to see your backpack to help prevent you from beings pick-pocketed. Don’t keep any valuables loose in your pockets! Keep your phone tightly in your hand if you are using it for maps or secured in a zipped pocket with your hand on top of the pocket.
Leonardo Express train from Termini to the Airport
Take the Leonardo Express train (€14 Euros) back to the FCO airport. It departs from the same platform that you arrived from!
Pick up luggage & pay
Return to Luggage Storage and hand over the ticket they gave you at drop off so you can retrieve your stored items! Pick up and pay for your bag(s).
Proceed to check in!
It’s time for your next flight! Head to departures, be mindful that your next flight might be in a different terminal (ours was). There is an information booth in each terminal and whoever is working there should be able to guide you if you have any questions.
- Baggage storage – €6 EUR for one bag ($7 USD)
- Express train to and from the city – €28 EUR ($32.75 USD)
- Lunch – €20 EUR ($23.39 USD)
- Gelato – €3 EUR ($3.51 USD)
- Metro to central station – €1.50 EUR ($1.75 USD)
Total: €58.50 EUR (~$68.42 USD) per person
Do you have an upcoming layover in Rome? Let me know if you found this guide helpful in the comments below!
*In full transparency to our readers, we are SWISSGEAR’s 2018 Travel Ambassadors! The links provided in this post are at no additional cost to you and we do not make a commission. We did, however, receive SWISSGEAR travel gear, airfare, and accommodation for our trip to Malta (with an 8.5 hour layover in Rome). We only promote and collaborate with companies we love and hope you’ll love too!