To fly or not to fly….That is the question. Flying gets you (well address this further on) there quicker, and the flight down from Rome is spectacular as long as you sit on the left side of the plane (You need to make sure you have a window seat with an A in it).
The flight path that you take from Rome down to Catania and back. In both cases, sit on the left side of the plane. The view of Mt. Etna both arriving and departing is beautiful!
So you said good-bye to your luggage at Sydney airport, you’ve done the epic journey through Dubai (and walked about a thousand kilometres between gates), breezed into Rome airport (FCO deserves it’s own post) and you have one 1.5 hour flight until you and your luggage will be reunited and you are free! Or so you would think….
A tip for booking: I firmly believe in Rome airport they carry your luggage between planes one by one – even snail mail is faster! If you have a short wait in Rome, then I hope you have a change of clothes in your carry-on! When booking, leave at least 4 hours between when you arrive in Rome and when you depart for Catania.
You’ve enjoyed your glass of blood orange juice (aranciata rossa) and your rosemary biscuits wile sitting in seat 24A watching Sicily get closer and closer. The view of Mt. Etna as you pass by on a clear day when there’s a bit of lava is just out of this world!
Looking good Etna! December 18, 2013. Photo credit: https://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com
For everything that’s about to happen when you hit the ground, the scenery on the way in makes up for it – almost…
The final approach to Catania airport. Mt. Etna in the background and the city and port of Catania in the foreground. The best of the beaches are just beside the airport! Photo credit: http://s895.photobucket.com/albums/ac154/FlyingFinn_photo/Italy_02_2010/Part_1/Catania_Approach_9.jpg
Final approach right over Catania! If you are lucky the wind is blowing the wrong way so you have to go out over the ocean and turn, and land east-west. When that happens, I can almost see who’s sitting on the terrace at our place. (Yep, like in ‘The Castle’ our Catania apartment is close to the airport. This has proved to be a very good thing.)
So you land, totally excited about all the stuff you just saw from above, or maybe on a sugar high from the O.J. (It’s really good). Either way, you have seen that the airport is a rectangular building, you’re not on an A380 with a gazillion other people (You’ve estimated about 100 people on your flight) so it is a hop,skip and a jump and you’ll be out that door and enjoying Sicily, right? Not necessarily…..
There are two buildings in Aeroporto Di Catania (A.K.A Fontanarossa (red fountain) and Vincenzo Bellini). One is the new airport and one is the previous airport. The old airport we think is being used for storage these days.
The old airport how it looked until 2007 when the new building opened. I personally liked the old one better. Photo Credit: http://www.catania-airport.com/
This building today – it’s been boarded up with pictures, but that’s about it – I’d love to know what’s in there now. Photo credit: https://mysicilianhome.wordpress.com
The new airport from the plane. Plenty of tunnels for planes right? All that stands between you and freedom is this building! Photo Credit: http://www.sicilytravel.net
So so close – there’s plenty of tunnels free so that you, your handbag, laptop and hand luggage can sail right in to the luggage area (I tend to travel like a pack horse – honestly, I really need all of this stuff). As we say in our family ‘Buona Fortuna’ (good luck). Plane makes a turn and parks right in front of the old airport nine times out of ten. Then the truck-stairs arrive, and it can end up like the running of the bulls! Stairs at the back and at the front – everyone has to get of first. Make a run for it, try not to fall over and enter the bus that’s parked between both sets of stairs – welcome to sardineville. This having to get on or off a plane first is not just a Sicilian phenomenon, but world wide. I don’t get it really, as we are all going to arrive at the same place in the same time.
So the bus in which you really feel like a sardine starts the engine and off we go – all of 200m. What ever you do, don’t relax! As soon as those doors open you gotta be ready to go. You are funnelled up a channel on the right side of the airport and then you encounter (insert jaws music here) the luggage hall!
When you can first look, look carefully. When there is more luggage off the carousels than on it, be afraid, BE VERY, VERY AFRAID! This tends to be a summer phenomenon but you never know.
Luggage everywhere but on the carousel means there is a delay between Rome and Catania. In August of 2014, knowing all this but ever being the optimist, I went past that to the carousel, watched it turn (I was travelling with my mum, for my wedding and it was late at night – I was not at my best and my hair was manky) and nothing, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING was on it. A message comes over the loudspeaker, and everyone starts going toward the lost luggage counter. I follow…….
Apparently, the reason why the carousel has nothing on it is because the plane did not bring one piece of luggage! NOT ONE! Every single person on that whole plane (this is a time when a hundred people looks like a million) had to file a lost baggage report at the counter. FANTASTIC – Just what I wanted to do at midnight, after flight delays and last seeing a shower in Sydney. So I find somewhere for mum to sit with all our hand luggage (between us there was 2 carry ons, 2 handbags, 2 laptops and 2 wedding dress boxes) while I went and sorted it out.
I don’t get to easily forced to the point of yelling, but that night I snapped. The whole airport went silent for about a minute. A bloke who had travelled from Genoa (north of Italy), in his Lacoste shirt, with his expensive looking man bag and really looking like he just stepped out of a high end catalogue decided his need was greater than mine and pushed in front of me (This is after I’ve been waiting for over 45 minutes). “Mi scuisi, io sono prossima” (excuse me, but I’m next) I said, to no avail. “I was in the line before” was the reply I got. I have always believed that if you abandon your post in the line then you get to start right up the back – as I had plenty of time to look around that night, I knew full well this was a total lie. “No, I saw you and you were behind me.”
“Please, you go ahead then” said Mr. Fresh out of the Catalogue in an extremely condescending tone. Midnight. Tired. Dishevelled and totally not into playing games. The anger was rising just like the lava in the magma chamber of Etna…. And then the explosion!
“No, you go ahead, your need is obviously much greater than mine as you have to push in! Much more important you coming 3 hours from Genoa than me travelling for 2 whole days for my wedding with my mother from Australia! I have to be back on a plane again in 4 hours to get documentation for my wedding in Rome, but you are much more important than me!!” That was at the top of my lungs. (There were some other choice words said in deep Sicilian which I won’t repeat here) Everyone fell silent. Needless to say no one messed with me after that. Mum later told me she was freaked out – I just don’t do public displays of rage, However that night I did.
We eventually got our luggage 24 hours later, but how you get lost luggage deserves it’s own post too.
When Fontanarossa airport works, it is wonderful. However, when the system is upset it can cause rage you didn’t know you had.
The flight down and back has amazing scenery of Sicily, and the airport building (unlike so many others around the world) is a simple box – really easy to navigate.
If you choose to fly then make it a priority to pack an extra change of clothes in your hand luggage – I can’t stress it enough.
Happy flying people!