10+ years ago I first rode the Leonardo Express from the airport to the center of Rome. It was far less expensive then it is today! Yet, ten years later it is still the only non-stop train transport from FCO to the center of town.
The Leonardo Express began operating in 1990. Unlike many other larger European cities, there is no metro service to Rome’s primary airport. Thus, the Leonardo Express might be your best option. The only other “train alternative” is the FR1 Metropolitan, which stops frequently. In addition, the FR1 does not go to or through the Roma Termini train station and the FR1 takes longer to get to the airport than the Leonardo Express. Two years ago the price of the Leonardo Express jumped from €11 to €14… an incredible 27% increase in the fare. As a result, this “express train” is perhaps not the bargain it used to be.
The advantages of the Leonardo Express are:
- It’s non-stop
- It takes less time than any other transportation alternative to Roma Termini (thirty-one minutes),
- It’s the only dedicated train to and from the airport.
- You can purchase tickets for the Leonardo Express at three different types of kiosks at the airport, travel agencies, some Tabacchi stores, online seven days in advance, and at all Trenitalia counters.
- In the event of a strike, the Leonardo Da Vince service is guaranteed – you’ll be transported by bus, but you will have the opportunity to get to and from the airport.
- There are no seat assignments – it’s first-come, first-serve… so no worry about trying to position groups together. Just get on the train and claim your seats!
The disadvantages include:
- The price – if you have three people in your group, today it’s less expensive to take a taxi into the city center.
- The Roma Pass – good on Regionale Trains inside the central part of Rome – is not valid for the Leonardo Express. You’ll have to buy a Trenitalia train ticket!
- Using a “Rail Pass” – The Leonardo Express is considered a “first-class” only train… so you must have a 1st class pass to ride this train. A 2nd class rail pass is not valid on the Leonardo Express.
- The “new” Minuetto carriages will have only 280 seats, with space for a proposed 690 passengers. So 60% of the planned occupancy for this train may be STANDING on their route to and from the airport…
Effective December 11, 2011 Trenitalia has transitioned from the older, standard train carriages to the high-density Minuetto, commuter-line train. This carriage-design is new to the Leonardo Express Line, but not to Trenitalia. We’ll discuss this train and show pictures below. The other HUGE change effective December 11, 2011 is the return of the Leonardo Express to Track 24. After three long years of hiking out the Track 25, NOW the Leonardo Express will be convenient for metro and train connections. Hooray – finally someone at Trenitalia is listening! Now if they could only buy or build a train designed specifically for airport service, like Stockholm’s Arlanda Express…
Arrivals and Departures
From Roma Termini, the Leonardo Express leaves the station at :22 and :52 of each hour. The first Leonardo Express departs Roma Termini at 05:52 and arrives at the FCO train station at 06:23. From there, you would have to walk to Terminals 1, 2, or 3 and take an airport shuttle to Terminal 5. Given the spotty on-time record for Trenitalia, and the walk from the train station to the terminals, the Leonardo Express is probably not a viable transportation option if you have a flight earlier than 07:30. For earlier flights, you probably should seek alternative transportation.
From the Fiumicino Airport, the first train to Roma Termini departs at 06:38, arriving at the station a little after 07:00. The Leonardo Express trains depart from the FCO train station at :08 and :38 after the hour. The last departure from the FCO Airport is at 23:38 and the last departure from Roma Termini is 22:52. The two stations, the FCO Airport train station and Roma Termini, are about 37 kilometers (23 mi) apart.
The Leonardo Express currently costs €14. If you are racing to catch the train at Roma Termini, you can also purchase a ticket at the Leonardo Express Trackside “desk” for €15. If you have a group – or you’re traveling on the Leonardo Express multiple times – you can currently purchase the carnet (booklet) of ten vouchers for €115. This will save you €25. Children under 12 years of age can ride the Leonardo Express for free if accompanied by an adult. If the child is riding the train unaccompanied, they must pay the full price… there is NO child’s fare.
Validating Your Tickets
Because this is a regionale train, (the only one with all first-class seating), you must validate your ticket before getting on the train. Failure to validate your ticket can lead to fines up to €100! Yep, they’ve put large, RED stickers on the yellow validation machines signifying this – in English! They are doing a much better job checking tickets lately – I went years without seeing a Trenitalia official on board a Leonardo Express, but certainly that’s changed. So do validate your ticket. Any ticket for the Leonardo Express purchased at a kiosk, a store, a Trenitalia counter, etc. is good for only 90 minutes and MUST be validated prior to boarding the train.
If you purchase a ticket for the Leonardo Express online, there are some restrictions. The good news is that your online ticket does not need to be validated. The bad news: (1) You can only pre-purchase these tickets 7 days in advance. (2) You must print out the PDF from the email you receive from Trenitalia – this IS your ticket and its pre-validated. And (3) you are tied to a specific train. If you miss that train, you can change your ticket for any train in the next 90 minutes… After that period, your pre-purchased ticket is invalid. Frankly, because there are so many purchasing options and open-seating, you’re better off just waiting to purchase your tickets when you reach the train station. Who knows when your plane (and/or luggage) will arrive at FCO.
The Journey – FCO to Roma Termini
1 – Getting to the FCO Train Station!
The Leonardo Express departs from the FCO train station, which is located closest to Terminal 3 (refer to the Airport map above). The train station is on the upper level and connected to the FCO Terminal system by overhead walkways and below-ground escalators. I suggest reading our two articles, Arriving at FCO and The Terminal 3 Arrivals Area at the Fiumicino Airport for more information on arriving at the FCO airport and getting to the FCO train station.
Upon arrival, look for the signs to Train Station – the route is well marked. If you’re arriving through Terminal 3 – as most flights do – then you’ll exit through the frosted doors and turn right. You will walk through the lower level of the Terminal 3 Arrivals Area until you come to the first escalators you see – on your left. You’ll see the “To the Train Station” signs directing you to go down the escalators. You’ll go down under the road, and then up escalators to the train station.
You’ll see the escalators on your left after about 125 meters.
The down escalator to go under the road on your way to the train station…
If you have a lot of Luggage and need to get to the Train Station
If you have a large amount of luggage, and you feel the escalators may not work for you… take a different path. Head out the frosted doors from the secured area of Terminal 3… and turn left! Head towards the cafe you see in the distance and bear to your left. You will see the signage for the elevator. When you get on the elevator, you want to go to the overhead walkways. So push “2” for the highest floor of the terminal. When you arrive on the top level, turn left out of the elevator, and head out the terminal doors and through the overhead walkway. At the first “intersection,” turn right and follow the signs to the train station.
Find the elevator in the lowest level and ride up to the 2nd level (This photo was taken on Level 2)
2 – Buy Your Tickets
Okay, once you arrive at the train station, it’s time to buy your tickets (biglietti) and there are many options. Your choices here in the station include: three different types of kiosks, two travel agencies, a Tabacchi store, and of course, the Trenitalia desk. I often use the kiosks or look for the shortest lines. For assistance on using the kiosks, see this article: Buying Train Tickets at a Kiosks . At the kiosks, travel agencies, and Trenitalia desk (biglietteria ) you can use your foreign credit cards. At the Tabacchi shop, it’s best to pay in cash (Euro). You’ll have 90 minutes to use your ticket.
3 – Validate Your Tickets
As discussed above, you MUST validate your tickets before getting on a regionale train. So as you walk to the Leonardo Express, stop by one of the many yellow validation machines that line the entryway to the platforms. Do it NOW before you forget. Make sure when the machine “clicks” when you insert your ticket… and make sure a time stamp prints out ON your ticket. If you can’t see the time stamp, go find another machine. The train conductors will have no sympathy and will accept no excuses about a “validation” machine not working. T.I.I. (This is Italy) and nothing is expected to work! You have to make sure your ticket is stamped!
In the next month, July 2012, Trenitalia will introduce a “new” platform entry system at the FCO Airport train station. Pictured below, these glass dividers will prevent non-ticketed personnel from getting out to the arriving trains. You’ll “scan” your ticket, much like the current Roma Pass card does when entering the metro. Thus, only passengers with valid tickets can ride the trains.
Two things will happen as a result. Trenitalia hopes to prevent “free” rides on the FR1 and the Leonardo Express trains. In addition, this will solve the “validation” process. Once you scan your ticket, it’s “validated.” So no more forgetting to validate and hopefully as a result, less fines.
Talking with a few vendors at the FCO station, this system should be in place by July 2012. The challenge is making the tickets “scan-able.” And you can’t just do the tickets sold at the FCO train station. Because you can buy a Leonardo Express or FR1 ticket anywhere in Italy, Trenitalia has to develop a system where all tickets can be scanned. By your next trip to FCO, let’s hope they have this operating effectively.
4 – Get on the Train
As per a Trenitalia press release, there are “new” trains coming to the Leonardo Express line, effective December 11, 2011:
As you can see in these pictures, these trains are sleek, more modern, and note the entry doors – low and without entry stairs – HOORAY! Unfortunately, Trenitalia says they do not have enough of these to completely change out the Leonardo Express system. Until they do, you may be riding on an older train. Loosely translated from their press release:
After more than ten years of service with heavy rolling stock, locomotives and carriages, Trenitalia is changing to the Minuetto series (pictured above). Only two trains have currently been prepared but Trenitalia hopes to have the remainder of the trains exchanged by the new year (2012).
Well, I can certainly attest to the ten years of service with older trains and carriages… These trains are certainly an upgrade from the older, recycled carriages. Yet the Minuetto series is not all that new. The Minuetto is primarily a commuter train, designed for short runs. Unfortunately, it’s not designed specifically for the airport traveler. While it does not have the three steep steps of the older, standard carriages… there are different “levels” inside the Minuetto that do have stairs.
The other concern – far less seats. The new “train” setup will mean the loss of 109 seats on each run. Will these trains run at higher speeds and will Trenitalia revamp their schedules to get more than two runs per hour in each direction to offset the loss of seats? Will this mean more crowding during peak periods? These are, as of yet, unanswered questions. At least there is progress in the works. The Leonardo Express version of the Minuetto will be a “double-Minuetto” which is really two Minuetto trains connected – see the videos below for a view of the new double-Minuetto Leonardo Express.
And as this will be a double Minuetto, you will not be able to walk the train from end to end. Unfortunately, we do not have any interior pictures of the Leonardo Express version of the Minuetto yet. Below is a photo of a regional Minuetto. As this train goes online, we’ll update this posting. In the same press release Trenitalia also states they will move the Leonardo Express back to Track #24 – closer to the metro and bus connections – effective December 11, 2011… HOORAY – HOORAY!
The Leonardo Express usually arrives on track 2 (the middle track) at the FCO train station. You’ll see the logo, the red, white, and green coloring, and name on the side of the train. Once the train has been emptied the entry doors will be unlocked. If a door is not open, just push the round button to open it. Again, as all seats are considered first-class, and it’s open seating, sit wherever you can. The Minuetto trains will have 109 less seats than the old version of the Leonardo Express… so getting a seat could be more of a challenge. Luggage storage has always been an issue on these trains, so you may find yourself walking around or over the luggage of other riders.
Here are some pictures (taken June 2012) of the new Leonardo Express trains:
5 – The Ride to Roma Termini
Once the train leaves the FCO station, it eases its way towards Roma Termini. Although it’s only 23 miles, it takes about 31 minutes… which means this train averages about 45 mph. Although it is nonstop, it does pass through many stations on the path to Roma Termini. So if you’re expecting a bullet-train into the city, this ain’t it! But it is nonstop!
If you check out the older, “nostalgic” photos at the end of the article, you can see the man different styles of trains used for the Leonardo Express. Again, these are not modern, unique carriages designed specifically for airport travelers. No, as you can see, many of these are converted carriages – of all different styles, seating patterns, and ages. With the newly announced Minuetto trains, hopefully they can remove these older cars from the system by mod-2012.
Once you arrive at Roma Termini on the Leonardo Express, effective December 11, 2011 you’ll be coming into Track #24. This track is part of the main station and very convenient to the metro, bus, taxi, and high-speed train connections. Make sure you grab EVERTHING you brought on the train and upon exiting the train, start walking to the right and the primary area of the station.
The Journey – Roma Termini to FCO
If you’re headed out to the airport from Roma Termini… your first challenge is getting to the train station. Fortunately, Roma Termini is the center of the transport system in Rome. It can be reached by train, car rental, taxi, bus, and both current metro lines. If you’re taking a taxi to the train station… you might be better off just heading for the airport from your location.
Okay, we’re at Roma Termini – what steps do we take to get to FCO via the Leonardo Express? For help on Roma Termini, check out the scalable PDF map below, or head to the article: Roma Termini Station.
1 – Buy your tickets
At Roma Termini you have multiple ticket buying options. Like the FCO train station terminal, there are also travel agencies, two different types of kiosks, newsstands, tabacchi shops, and the Trenitalia counters (biglietteria ) where you can buy your tickets. In addition, if you’re really rushed, you can race out to Track #25 and there is a portable Trenitalia “podium” where you can purchase your Leonardo Express tickets for one extra Euro… So tickets out by track 24 will cost you €15. Sometimes in the early morning, this podium (the “Controllo Biglietti” or “Ticket Check” desk) may not be available… so it may be best just to buy your ticket at one of the other options before heading to track.
2- Head over to Track 24!
It’s great to say “head to track 2” and not to have to start the long trek out to Satellite Track 25. Effective December 11, 2011, Trenitalia has moved the Leonardo Express – After THREE years – back to Track 24. This is a huge time (and energy) savings for the Airport traveler. If you come in from the front of the station, Track 24 is the track farthest RIGHT> (The tracks are number 1-24 in the area of the station, from left to right).
3 – Validate your ticket!
Again, as this is open seating, you’ll have to validate your ticket BEFORE getting on the train. There are validation machines all throughout the Roma Termini station – probably every 15-20 meters. As mentioned earlier in the article, don’t forget to validate and make sure you can read the stamp!
Sometimes the train will be sitting there waiting to depart. Remember, they will depart at approximately 22 and 52 after the hour. If you see and hear a Trenitalia official blow a whistle, start running – or you’ll be waiting thirty minutes for the next train. Don’t get on the train if your tickets are not validated!
4 – Find a Seat!
Again, these are all considered first-class seats with no reservations, so you can sit wherever you can find a spot. Your trip will take about 31 minutes and you’ll ease into the FCO train station.
5 – Arriving at the FCO Train Station
The Leonardo Express usually arrives on Track 2, the center track at the FCO train station. As the train pulls into the station, many folks will be gathering their luggage and heading for the doors. Keep an eye on your stuff and when you leave, make sure you take EVERYTHING you brought with you – otherwise you’ll probably not ever see it again. As you exit the train, you’ll head into the station area. Continue straight through the station and you’ll see a bank of monitors on your left that show all departing flights and the terminal where you will check-in. The train station is very convenient to Terminal 3… which is the busiest, largest, and most used airport terminal.
This is the view of the “exit” from the train station into the overhead walkways and paths to the terminals. You can see the cafe’ on the left and the Trenitalia full service counter on the right.
As you exit the station, you see these monitors on your left. These monitors, labeled “Partenze/Departures,” will read T1, T2, T3, or T5. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are an easy walk from the train station. Just give yourself plenty of time.
Terminal 5 is a little more difficult to reach. If you are flying directly to the USA on a US-flagged airline, or you’re flying EL-Al, you’ll be departing from Terminal 5. If you’re connecting in say Paris, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam, and THEN flying on a US plane… you will NOT be head to T5. This higher security terminal is only for direct-to-the-States on US-flagged carrier flights. See the article, Terminal 5 at FCO, for more information and maps of this terminal.
Let’s say you have to get to Terminal 5 to check-in for your 11:00 Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta. From the FCO train station, head past the bank of monitors, cross the overhead walkway, and head down the escaltor to the main street below the overhead walkway. There you will see a sign for the shuttle bus to terminal 5 (it’s labeled “navetta T5 shuttle bus”). The good news is… it’s free. The bad news… it’s supposed to come every 15-20 minutes. So do give yourself a few extra minutes if you have to make this transition. You don’t want to walk to Terminal 5 as it is NOT connected to the other terminals and the path to the Terminal does not have a sidewalk. I’ve walked it and you don’t want to do that – especially with luggage.
The Leonardo Express is a viable alternative if you need transportation to the FCO airport – especially if you’re traveling by yourself. The costs are about equal to a taxi ride from the centro area if you have three people. If you have more than 5 people, I’d be looking at a shuttle service before I’d ride the Leonardo Express. It will probably be cheaper using the shuttle. The trains generally run on time and they are guaranteed to have replacement buses if there is a strike. So as much as you can count on any transport in Italy, you can count on the Leonardo Express.
The Leonardo Express offers spaces with anchors for passengers with wheelchairs. Trenitalia also offers services for accompanying passengers with disabilities to their trains and station exits.
According to Trenitalia, more than 10,000 people use the Leonardo Express each day. Their customer surveys suggest that the Leonardo Express is preferred over taxis or private shuttle because of its price, comfort, speed, and safety. In June 2011, the Leonardo Express celebrated it’s 6th million customer.
Leonardo Express notes:
- The first departure from Roma Termini is at 5.52 and from Fiumicino at 6.36.
- The last departure from the airport is at 23.36 and from Roma Termini at 22.52.
- One Way Fare : Currently, €14
- Children under 12 travel free if accompanied.
- All seats are considered “first class” – thus, there is no carriage differentiation
For a nostalgic view, and in case you end up on an “older” version of the Leonardo Express, here are some photos and video taken in the past few years of the train:
The signage on the train cars of the Leonardo Express
Flickr photo by By ChihPing
Photo by OVerGon
Photos from Fly like the Wind
In this photo, you can see how this carriage has been modified and a luggage storage rack has been installed in the middle of the car. Photo by mytravel
From the Mary & Phil’s Blog, this photo shows what many folks had to do with their luggage due to the lack of storage on the older trains of the Leonardo Express … just stack it in the seat across from you.
Header: Leonardo Express – Photo by Christoph Rohde
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