Rome Fiumicino Spotting Guide

Rome Fiumicino Airport is the largest of the airports servicing Rome (the notable other being Ciampino, which handles only low-cost traffic) and the main hub for Italian carrier Alitalia. The airport handled just over 36 million passengers in 2013, but sadly traffic is currently declining due to several cost cutting and route closures of Alitalia. Though that might change again in the future with their new investor Etihad Airways.

By far the strongest airline in Fiumicino is Alitalia. Other carriers with a hub at the airport are Blue Panorama, easyJet and Vueling. Other traffic you will see, are of course the well known Northamerican carriers like US Airways, Delta, American, United and Air Canada (Rouge), but you can also see Air Transat. From Asia Rome has connections provided by China Eastern, Air China, China Airlines, Thai Airways, SriLankan, Cathay Pacific, Kuwait Airways, Air India and of course the Gulf carriers as well. Another highlight is certainly Aerolineas Argentinas coming in daily with their A340.

If you are looking for cargo, you will be disappointed though. There are almost no cargo flights to FCO during the day. Other than that the main traffic peak for long haul flights is (like most European airports) in the morning. Unfortunately most of the Alitalia Heavies come in at noon, where the light is bad, but there are always also a couple of flights in the morning and evening. But you definitely need to plan a couple of days to get most of the heavies (and the specials). The afternoon is mostly European (primarily Alitalia) narrow-body traffic, but there are a few more widebodies around 6 PM.

++ SECURITY NOTE: Police seems to control more and more around the airport du to safety reasons so the chance of getting checked is pretty high nowdays. Usually they should let you go but be prepared with your ID etc.. +++

Written by Marlin Lehmann, Julian Mittnacht, Jan Seba  and Björn Van Brussel (last update September 2016).

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information    Runways 16R/34L 16L/34R  07/25
3.900 m (12.795 ft) 3.900 m (12.795 ft)  3.300 m (11.811 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 2  Terminal 3
Alitalia Schengen destinations and Air France/KLM Low-cost carrier Alitalia Non-Schengen destinations and most other airlines
Terminal 5
US and Israeli carrier
Spotting Information Ladder Not required
Car Necessary for getting around the airport as the locations are pretty far from villages and hotels and you occasionally have to switch runways as well.
Restrooms Restrooms are not available at the spots.
Drinks/Food There are gas stations in the town Fiumicino and along the Viale Coccia di Morto
Hotels There are several good hotels in Fiumicino itself and also in Focene, which is very close to most of the spots (and the beach where you can relax at noon)
Ren & Ros is a great B&B in Focene.
Season As Rome Fiumicino has runways in a North-South direction the airport is best visited in summer as the days are longest and you can start early in the morning. The high sun altitude around noon is not really a problem as thats the time when the sun is on the runway anyway. May to August also has the best weather over the year.
Runway Usage  16R/34L Main runway for arrivals from Non-Schengen destinations. Also used as Departure runway for some heavies (all Alitalias, EK A380 but also some others).
16L/34R Main runway for arrivals from Schengen destinations. Not known to be used for departures.
07/25 Main departure runway (used only in 25 direction, exclusively for departures), even heavily loaded planes like Aerolineas or US carriers depart here.
General Notice While in general the rule for Schengen and Non-Schengen arrivals on runway usage applies, there are always exceptions. Especially Alitalia narrowbodies are known to elude the “rule” and could use the other runway as well. There are also some carriers like Blue Air where you never know where they will come. Occasionally it also happens that clear Non-Schengen carriers like US Airways or Kuwait come in on the Schengen runway. There are peak heavy (non-schengen) times, where it makes more sense to stay at the Non-Schengen RWY and there are also times where the RWY is very calm and it makes more sense to switch over. Study the flightplan and make your decision based on that.

Spot #1 – Turnout – 34L Arrivals Morning
WHERE The first location is closest to the terminal and very easy to find. From the airport just take one of the first exits and do head onto the SS296. If you’re coming from Focene or Fiumicino just exit the large roundabout in direction of the airport, cross the approach path and you’ll see a large turnout area on the left side. You can park right where you stand.
WHAT The location for Non-Schengen arrivals on RWY 34L in the morning. For a slightly better angle we suggest not to stand at the front of the turnout area. Also don’t use the end, as you will have the trees obstructing your picture at 90°.
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. At noon you will often find a Panini vendor here where you can grab a quick snack.
FOCAL LENGTH 100mm for a B772 and around 160mm for a B738.

Spot #2 – Side Road – 34L Arrivals Afternoon
WHERE Coming from the large roundabout head north on the Viale Coccia di Morto and exit at the first left onto a small gravel road. Drive it for about 150m so that you are at the end of the field to your left. You can park directly on the side of the gravel road and shoot from there.
WHAT Best location for 34L arrivals in the evening. You can vary your location here on this side road, but we recommend to to the end for the best angle.
TIME In summer the light is good from 3 PM until sunset.
MISC. There is nothing nearby, so take what you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH 105mm for a B772 and 160mm for an A321.

Spot #3 – Viale Coccia di Morto – 16R Departures Afternoon
WHERE Finding this spot is a bit trickier than the other. It’s right next to the forest area at the crossing. You can drive into the Via del Pesce Luna road and leave your car at the side there. This should’nt be a problem as you probably won’t stay long here. Alternatively you can directly at the main road in one of the pullouts there, but we recommend the side road, as it is safer. From the side road go back to the main road and walk along it to the south until you find a good spot, which is a bit away from the main road.
WHAT Around 3 PM you will see the main Alitalia heavy departure wave, which also includes the Emirates A380 (they always use the 16R and not the 25). That’s the time for this location. All the heavies should rotate somewhere around this location, so that you can shoot them over the fence at a good angle. But of course there is no guarantee and it can happen, that the aircraft is either too high or a bit too low so that you’ll have the fence in the frame (see images below) – most of the time you’ll be fine though.
TIME In summer the light is good from 3 PM until sunset.
MISC. The Agip gas station is just to your south and a favorite location of the local spotters. You can use it to buy supplies, but the heavies will be too high to shoot there.
FOCAL LENGTH 90mm for a B772 and 75mm for an A380.

Spot #4 – WWG Fuel Station Terrace – All RWY 16R/34L Movements Afternoon & 25 Departures Late Afternoon
WHERE When driving to the North of the airport or to Focene the WWG Fuel station is the first building on your left. They have parking spaces and the terrace is on the roof of the shop. There is a stair on the right side of the building.

+++ Update Sept. 2016: Sadly the terrace is closed and access has been denied by the owners. We have no infos if it will ever reopen. We keep you up to date. Departure shots from the ground are still possible. +++

WHAT Even though great pictures are possible at this location, it’s uses are rather limited. If you want to shoot on the runway, you will have to deal with lots of heat haze in the afternoon which only goes away later in the evening before sunset. Also there is a big tree and an elevated hill obstructing the RWY for 16R arrivals until the aircraft is exactly at 90°, so you won’t be able to shoot from the front. 34L arrivals can also be tricky as they often use a taxiway earlier and do not pass this location (or they turn off the RWY right in front of you, making the light worse). 25 Departures are often too high (plus rather far away) at this location except for the occasional heavy. Aerolineas Argentinas seems to prefer RWY 25 and is actually one of the best departures you can get here. But even for all the downsides, this location is still worth a visit if you’re getting a bit sick of approach shots.
TIME In summer the light is good from 3 PM until sunset for RWY 16R/34L movements. 25 Departures are only good from 6 PM.
MISC. There is a small shop downstairs which offers drinks and snacks. There is also a toilet available. They cut away the tree that blocked part of the view so you see much more now.
FOCAL LENGTH 105mm for a B773 and 210mm for an A320 on the runwy and 160mm for the B787 on the taxiway off the runway. Takeoffs on 25 are 175mm for an A342 and 280mm for a B738.

Spot #5 – Bridge – 16R Arrivals Afternoon
WHERE Turn right at the roundabout north of Focene and follow the road to a small bridge over a creek. South of the creek and east of the road there is a small area which is ideal to stay for spotting. You can leave your car on the northern side of the creek either on the turnout area there or on the small side road to your left, which leads to a few houses.
WHAT The location is good for arrivals on RWY 16R (Non-Schengen). You can vary the distance by going closer if you so prefer, but standing at the bridge yields the best angle.
TIME In summer the light is good from 3 PM until sunset.
MISC. There is nothing close to this spot.
FOCAL LENGTH 100mm for a B772 and 165mm for an A320.

Spot #6 – Reed Embankment – 16R Arrivals Morning
WHERE From the afternoon location follow the road a bit further and leave your car right next to the approach lights at a small turnout area next to the fence. Pack your things and head along the road from here, beware of passing traffic, as there is no footpath.
WHAT Good in the morning for arrivals on RWY 16R for the Non-Schengen inbound wave. You can go as far as you like depending on your preference for angle and distance. Just jump over the crash barrier and find a cozy location the grass/reed to lay down.
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. There is nothing here. Leave the location as it was and take all the rubbish with you.
FOCAL LENGTH 100mm for a B772 and 170mm for a B738.

Spot #7 – The Beach – 34L Departures Banking Shots
WHERE From the roundabout near location #5 turn take the exit to the north and head into Focene. Follow the Viale di Focene and turn half left into the Piazzale Tammaso Albinoni, at which end you will find a parking area where you can leave your car. Go to the beach and pick a location of your preference.
WHAT This place can be used for 34L Departure Banking Shots. Some of the heavies use the runway, especially the Alitalia Heavies and the Emirates A380 can be done here. Another interesting one might be Thai. There are also a few other heavies, but you might have to wait a while for any traffic. But what better place to wait than a beach?
TIME Light gets good around noon until the evening.
MISC.  Sit down, relax and enjoy the sun!
FOCAL LENGTH 400mm

Spot #8 – Field – 16L Arrivals Afternoon
WHERE From the 6th location continue down the road until the road makes a left turn across a narrow bridge. Follow the Viale di Porto and go right at the next roundabout. Follow the next road until the end and drive straight towards the runway. The road makes a left turn and after a couple more hundred meters take the first exit in the next roundabout. You will find the location directly at a line of trees perpendicular to the road. You can park your car at the entranceway to the field.
WHAT Location is good for arrivals on the Schengen runway in the afternoon. You’ll have the best angle somewhere close to the entranceway, but you can go closer as well, if it’s too far for you. You can move around in the field as you prefer but watch out since it’s pretty rough terrain.
TIME In summer the light is good from 3 PM until sunset.
MISC. There is nothing here.
FOCAL LENGTH 170mm for an A321 and 225mm for an E175.


Spot #9 – Field 16L – Arrivals Morning
WHERE Starting at the aforementioned location follow the road around the approach lights to the next roundabout. Turn right and you are already there. You can either leave your car directly after the roundabout on the field or ~100 meters further after a couple of trees at a small turnout next to the road.
WHAT The location should be used for arrivals on the Schengen runway 16L in the morning. You can spot anywhere on the field but you will the better angle at the small turnout.
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. There is nothing here.
FOCAL LENGTH  100mm for an A333 and 180mm for an A320.

Spot #10 – 34R Arrivals Morning
WHERE There should also be a location for 34R arrivals in the morning along the Via della Corona Boreale, though this was not tested and the location can not be vouched for. You can’t drive with the car to the fence (there is a barrier blocking the way), so you will have to leave it somewhere along the road and walk a few hundred meters until you reach the location.
WHAT  Location for Arrivals on RWY 34R in the morning.
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. This location was not tested.
FOCAL LENGTH Unknown, most likely simlar to Spot #12.
Spot #11 – Parking Lot – 34R Arrivals Morning
WHERE This one is pretty easy to find and an alternative to spot #10. When you start in Fiumicino just follow the Via Portunese eastwards for approximate 5km. Pass the approach path until you see a big empty parking area on your left hand side. Turn left, even its not allowed or just use the next roundabout to turn arround. Park your on the street and find a place to stay. The road is not really in use so you won´t get a problem with other traffic. (google street view is not up to date!)
WHAT Arrivals location for runway 34R (Schengen). The angle is not the best as the planes are higher than on spot #10 but its pretty easy to reach by car.
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. There is nothing here.
FOCAL LENGTH 130mm for an A330 and 230mm for an 738.
Spot #12 – Cargo Area Parking Lot – 34R Arrivals Evening
WHERE  There is only one way to get to this location. First head towards the airport and always follow the signs to the Cargo Area. You will be turning quite often in the area south of the airport before getting to the cargo area, but it should always be signposted. After a couple of oneway roads you will reach the Via Mario Castoldi and turn right here. Park your car at the side of the road where often trucks are parked as well.
WHAT Arrivals location for runway 34R (Schengen). You can shoot directly from this point or head into the parking lot for a slightly better angle, but it could happen that you will be sent away from the parking lot.
TIME In summer the light is good from 3 PM until sunset.
MISC. There is nothing here.
FOCAL LENGTH 160mm for an A321 and 210mm for an E175.

Spot #13 – Viale Coccia di Morto Petrol Station – 34L Movements Afternoon
WHERE There is a petrol station right at the level of the runway beginning and a powerbox enable you to look over the fence. You need to be quite up to the mark and fit to climb up this powerbox as it is really hight like a normal person but as long as you are tall and in good conditions it won’t usually be a problem.
WHAT You can observe all runway 34L arrivals movements as well as taxiing aircrafts if heat haze is not too strong.
TIME In summer the light is good from 2 PM until sunset.
MISC. Food is available here as well as a lavatory
FOCAL LENGTH 90mm for a B772 and 75mm for an A380.

Spot #14 – 16R arrivals
WHERE From Spot #6, drive further on eastbound until you see a little bridge and a bus stop on your right. Turn right to go over the bridge and park your car on the right side of the road. From there on you can walk on a sandy unpaved way, next to a carrot field. You can find yourself a spot wherever you want along the path, as long as you don’t block the passage. This spot is slightly better then spot #6 since you don’t need to park your car along the busy road, you can move around in a free way and it’s less dangerous. However, you will have some background in your shots when the heavies come in instead of sky like on spot #6.
WHAT Good in the morning for arrivals on RWY 16R for the Non-Schengen inbound wave.
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. There is nothing here. If the farmer passes by, just say “hi” and he won’t bother you
FOCAL LENGTH 150-300mm – 150mm for a B773, 280mm for a B789


Spot #15 – 16L arrivals
WHERE When coming from Spot #9, drive southbound on the Via Della Muratella for approx 500m until you see an abandoned gas station on your right. Turn right immediately after this into a small unnamed road. You will end up in front of a crashgate. Park your car on the right side on the sand and don’t block the crashgate. You can then find yourself a spot along the runway on the sand hills. You have a small buidling in front of you, but you can shoot either before, either after it. You are standing higher then the fence so it’s not a blocking point. Compared to spot #9 you have some background in your pics.
WHAT Good in the morning for arrivals on RWY 16L. Exceptionally you have a non-Schengen flight arriving here as well
TIME In summer the light is good from sunrise until 11 AM.
MISC. There is nothing here.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-200mm – 100mm for an A333, 165mm for an A319


Spot #16 – 16L arrivals touchdown zone
WHERE From spot #9 you drive southbound for approx 1,5km until you can turn right into the Via Della Corona Boreale. Follow this road until you pass the canal. Park your car here where it doesn’t block the others and place yourself along the canal. You can see the runway in front of you, around the touch-down zone. You are however pretty far away so this spot is only useable in wintertime or early morning, else you’ll suffer from massive heathaze.
WHAT Good in the morning for arrivals on RWY 16L. Referred to as “burning point” since this is where the wheels touch the ground so you can take some nice smokey pictures.
TIME In summer light is good from sunrise until 10-11 AM but due to the heat haze only useable in the early morning hours.
MISC. There is nothing here, a lot of rubbish around this spot so don’t make it worse.
FOCAL LENGTH 200-400mm

Due to the heat distortion we did not make any pics from this location. Feel free to share your pictures with us by using the contact form.

Spot #17 – 25R departures
WHERE When coming from Spot #3, drive northbound along the Viale Coccia Di Morto until you see a bridge on your right at a crashgate. Turn onto the bridge and try to park your car somewhere where it doesn’t block the gate nor the bicycle path. Here you can observe planes taking off on rwy 25, especially the heavies since they tend to stay lower then the smaller ones that might be already too high.
WHAT Good around noon for departures on RWY 25. This spot is the best thing to do around noon when arrival shots are not possible.
TIME 10AM-14PM
MISC. You are not too far away from 2 gas stations, in case you need a toilet or food and beverages.
FOCAL LENGTH 150-400mm – 185mm for a B773, 250mm for a B763


http://www.spotterguide.net/images/numbers/Number_18.png Spot #18 – Take-off runway 25 – Malibu Beach
WHERE From the spot number 4, head direction south on Malibu Beach. Just see where you want to stand to get the best angle.
WHAT This place is good for take-off runway 25.
TIME In Summer, the light is good from 1400 until sunset.
MISC. Here is nothing nearby, so take what you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH A 300-400mm is good but if you have a 500mm is perfect.

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7 thoughts on “Rome Fiumicino Spotting Guide

  1. arthur mcstamp

    Hi: spotted at spots 4 and 17 today. At 17 around 15-16:30 hrs, using the full of my 560mm (Full Frame) for departures on 25. The angle is rather steep imho.
    Spot 4: for TO on 34 it was not very good, as the TO happens later and the plane is covered by the fence. I walked down direction of a supermarket CONAD, there the position was good as the planes were high up just enough. I’d advise to go even further down if you want good shots of heavy aircraft (got some 777, 787 and a 380).

    Thought you might be interested

    1. BjörnBjörn Post author

      Thanks for the input Arthur.

      Spot 17 is indeed far away and best used for widebodies only. For small planes or light ones, they are indeed very high already and you get pure bellyshots.

      Wrt spot 4 I’m not sure you mean that spot. From the Gasoil station terrace, you are not blocked by any fence… (unless they have built one since April this year)

      Björn

  2. John bothwell

    Hi there, I’ve booked myself into the hilton garden inn arriving late on June 21st and depart on June 24th will I have views of the movements from certain rooms or do you know of the best room numbers to ask for, I will only be on foot so no car and any idea how much a taxi will cost to the hotel from the airport,, I do photography and collect registrations, any help would be fantastic.
    Kind regards John

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