I was in Rome airport for a 3-hour layover. It's huge - that was my first impression. I walked off the plane following signs to the second gate and amazingly enough - and thanks to the excellent signs, found a free shuttle to the next terminal.
My next flight left for London from Terminal G. I'm not sure if this is a new terminal - but while it was well built, there were several things that struck me, one that bothered me, and one that delighted me.
Bothered me - no free Internet. If small Israel can afford to give traveling passengers free Internet, so can the massive Rome airport. As we took off, relatively on time this time and with an amazingly empty flight (thank you, Alitalia, for the extra seat to Rome and the extra two seats to London and the wonderful, attentive flight attendants), I counted seconds between take-offs. From the few I saw - about 4 - they were taking off every 65 seconds or so - for that, Rome, you can give free Internet.
One funny thing happened - well, funny because it was daytime, funny because even the workman was laughing and funny because the flights continued to be processed - but there was a blackout in Terminal G that lasted at least 20 minutes (full for 10 minutes, quite a large amount for 20 minutes, and then elements for more than an hour and a half). People couldn't pay for their food in restaurants (or so they told me) and so were just asked to pay a bit (what they could, I guess, without giving change). The restaurants definitely lost money there. Some of the monitors came on, the escalators, the stores and advertising areas, and other monitors remained off even an hour later.
And the amazing thing was how much Hebrew I heard on the one hand and the sight that is so common in Israel but I was astounded to see it there in Rome. Early, early evening - I saw several Jewish men form a cluster and my first thought was...no, no way...
They were looking around - as Jewish men often do at that hour. One man signaled to another - 2 - as often happens. They were 8, they needed two more to form a Jewish quorum of 10 men, a minyan. With a minyan, you can say certain prayers. Someone wishing to say the mourner's prayer for having lost a close relative, must gather a minyan.
They began looking at the sun and pointing - they were searching for the direction - to Jerusalem. And then, there in Rome airport, they prayed. I was enthralled; I was proud; I was delighted. I looked at the faces of the people sitting nearby - many were staring at the Jewish men. They had quietly gone to a side wall but were clearly gathering attention.
I watched for a few minutes - no matter where we go, they announced to the world, we are what we are, we do what we must. This happens all over Israel, every day - I loved seeing it in Rome.
Rome Minyan Paula R Stern