Do You Really Know FCO?

25 Jun

Looking back over the years, since my junior year of college in Rome, I’ve probably landed or taken off from FCO more than 40 times. The formal name of Rome’s largest airport is the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, but to many, the Rome Fiumicino Airport is simply known as FCO, short for Fiumicino.

Like most travelers, the less time spent at an airport the better, so at the end of each Cortona stay, we would leave in the wee hours of the morning to catch a late morning flight home. But last year, when the traffic stress got to be too much, we joined the ranks of those spending the night before departure near FCO.

Not wanting to stay at the airport, we did some research and much to our surprise, we discovered that Fiumicino is much more than an airport. Fiumicino is a town/comune in Metropolitan Rome, with a population over 77,000. And based on its location, the northern side of the mouth of the Tiber river, it’s also an important source of fresh fish for Rome.  Best of all for us, it offers travelers a place to walk, relax, and eat well prior to an international flight.

A stroll along the Tiber is filled with colorful fishing boats,

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fishing nets,

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fishermen,

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fisher “birds”,

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and fishing apparatus of every kind.

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The long walk, adjacent to the river, is also filled with a variety of shops, tabacchi, restaurants, bars, gelato shops, etc.

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This June was our third stay in Fiumicino, and our custom is to take a long walk to the end of the pier and enjoy the incredible sunset before stopping for dinner.

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Wanting to eat light, we discovered this gem last year – Uniti nel Gusto (United in Taste).

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This year, upon returning, we got to know the owners who, by the way, are not nearly as stern as the photo suggests. Trust me, it’s an Italian thing.

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We chose a wonderful array of appetizers to go with the best bread we have ever had in Italy –

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really, the BEST!

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On the way back to the hotel, I mentioned to Len that it would be interesting to spend a day here, seeing the fishing boats head out to sea and return with their hauls. Besides, we had so many questions about it all.

The next morning, we awoke to emails telling us our flight was delayed, then rebooked, then ultimately cancelled. Hmm. I guess we get that day in Fiumicino after all.

After a long walk including other parts of town, we put aside some slight concerns we had about eating fish before a flight and headed to the end of the “pier” to Al Molo Bastianelle for lunch. Our waiter assured us that the fish had just arrived, so why not try?

We began with insalata di mare, a freshly made seafood salad,

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followed by sautéed sole and roasted potatoes.

Both the setting and the food turned out to be great choices!

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After lunch, the boats began to return.

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Fortunately, we stopped to talk to the one person who could easily answer our questions.

Massimo was born in Sicily, raised in Gloucester, MA, and now worked in Fiumicino on a large fishing boat. When I approached him with my best Italian, he turned and said with a Boston accent and his best smile, “Do you speak English?” …He had us at Hello.

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Massimo explained that they prepare the boats each afternoon and head out to sea at 11:30 pm. They sweep, or drop the nets, usually three times, then return home the following day at 3:30 in the afternoon. When they return, they stop at the end of the pier to unload the day’s catch. The fish is weighed and immediately taken to auction. Len had some other fishing questions, including how often. “Five days a week.” Obviously, fishing is not a hobby here.

Before saying our goodbyes, Massimo said, “Follow the sign and you’ll find the auction.”

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Follow we did and came across this serious and immaculate setting, which we were not allowed to enter. Seeing how clean it was made us feel even better about what we had just eaten.

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On the right side behind the railing, the buyers are bidding as the auction takes place. If I understand correctly, there is even a doctor on site monitoring the quality. Fish auctioned here remains in Rome.

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Massimo also explained that undersized fish cannot be sold at the auction, hence the vendors on the pier.

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Satisfied that our questions were answered, we walked more, until the sun set once again.

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Eventually, we ended the evening back with our new friends at Uniti Nel Gusto.

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As it turned out, exploring Fiumicino was the perfect way to spend a flight delay. And now you know FCO – so very much more than an airport!

Ciao,
Judy

16 Responses to “Do You Really Know FCO?”

  1. bestson808 June 25, 2017 at 8:31 PM #

    Aloha Judy, wonderful story, thank you for sharing. Your BLOGs always make me hungry for Italian food. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dominic Mosca June 25, 2017 at 8:44 PM #

    Great story 😱

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jeanfromcalifornia June 25, 2017 at 9:21 PM #

    We love it too!
    I wrote up another comment but WordPress has made my replies a bit chancy so don’t be surprised if the other one shows up as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Denese Rhea Day June 26, 2017 at 12:09 AM #

    Grazie mille, Judy! Our plans will now include a lovely long overnight at FMO when departing Italy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. karenincalabria June 26, 2017 at 2:26 AM #

    Fascinating. I’ve stayed overnight in Fiumicino a couple of times, but I have to admit that it never crossed my mind to explore, and I suppose I never calculated in the time. I do remember being very pleasantly surprised by good fish in a couple of restaurants, though. The next time I fly out of Rome, I won’t worry if my plane gets cancelled (knock on wood/touch iron)…

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly June 26, 2017 at 9:03 AM #

      While we always hate flight delays, this really turned out well. So very relaxing and interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jurema Boente June 26, 2017 at 7:37 AM #

    Hi Jude

    It’s a pleasure for me to hear from our beloved Toscana by your amazing blog! Congratulations! The posts are amazing and lead us in wonderful journeys!
    I’d like to know about accomodation in Fiumicino. Could you suggest a nice and comfortable place to stay ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • blogginginitaly June 26, 2017 at 9:33 AM #

      Thanks for your comments! I did not recommend lodging as there are many places to stay that meet different needs and budgets. Having said that, our last stay was at Hotel Tiber at the mouth of the Tiber and we were very happy with the hotel.

      Like

  7. stellalucentellc July 10, 2017 at 10:56 PM #

    Reblogged this on Conversational Italian! and commented:
    We all have flown in and out of Fiumicino airport just outside Rome at one time or another. But the town is a wonderful place to visit as well! Read all about the wonderful experiences of one blogger and plan to stay for awhile on your next trip to see for yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. stellalucentellc July 10, 2017 at 10:59 PM #

    Love this post! Re-blogged on Conversational Italian! Hope I can visit for an afternoon myself on my next trip!

    Liked by 1 person

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