Growing up, my parent’s idea of a trip was a singular, month-long, station wagon drive through the West. Mom and Dad loaded up our old station wagon with food, clothes and three children, including an infant, for an epic journey. I had just turned 12 and what I remember most about this is trip was the anger and heat: anger since staying in such close quarters with your immediate family results in irritation over every tiny thing and heat since my parents didn’t include in the budget running air conditioning in our car.
Fast forward nearly a quarter century and I found myself in the alluring cabins of Alitalia’s new business class in my journey home from Rome, Italy in a fundamentally diametric experience than what I had been brought up with. Nothing about Alitalia’s generous revamped service raises anger or heat, rather what one feels is the easing of stress for an epic journey.
The commitment of Alitalia to give travelers a sublime luxurious experience begins with Casa Alitalia, the flagship Alitalia lounge in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. Inside of being stuffed in a station wagon with barely any room to move at all, I walked inside Casa Alitalia and felt the overwhelming feeling of spatial comfort.
Located in Terminal One of the international departures wing, from the moment the palazzo looking doors open to reveal the interiors, one is struck by how much Casa Alitalia resembles a gorgeous Italian home more than an airport lounge. Famed Italian architect Marco Piva — whose major projects include the Bulgari Window Concept Design of the Bulgari’s international shops windows, as well as the Feng Tai Financial Center in Beijing, Rome’s Domus Aventino residential complex, Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia and the Dubai Port Project – crafted the sleek interiors to help travelers relax.
“(This lounge) offer a new passenger experience embodying a concept of Italian hospitality in an elegant yet relaxed setting, where a warm welcome with attention to details makes our guests from all over the world feel as they were in a typical Italian home,” stated Aubrey Tiedt, Alitalia Chief Customer Officer.
The smell of rich Italian leather is subtly interwoven with the smells of freshly cooked, made-to-order pasta and pizza, with a Chef helming the kitchen in full view of travelers. “The catering offer at Casa Alitalia reflects Italian culinary excellence too and includes a live cooking area where a chef prepares a selection of fresh pasta dishes and fresh pizzas in front of the guests. (For us) Casa Alitalia is not just a place to relax while waiting for a flight, but a showcase for the unique values of Italian excellence,” Ms. Tiedt continued.
While one can linger in the lounge for hours on end, when the flight is called Alitalia’s devotion to celebrating traditional Italian feeling and hospitality continues onboard. I have never felt more welcomed and loved than onboard the Alitalia Business Class service from Rome to Washington, D.C.’s IAD airport.
The re-designed business class service is a 1:2:1 configuration with a 180 degree flat-bed with an oversized pillow, extra plush blankets and an amenity kit from Bulgari. I had plenty of width in the 22-inch-wide cushion to sprawl out while I scrolled through the 70 films on the 15.4 LCD screen. Honestly, though, I did not pay much attention to the entertainment since I was so distracted by the truly exceptional food.
Any consumer who has flown knows how challenging it is to find good food: re-heated at the right temperature, presented at the right time, plated to resemble something one could buy on the ground. Mom and Dad gave us plenty of $1.99 McDonald’s Happy Meals during our trip. No fancy cheese, meats or pasta. But it felt as though, inside the Alitalia Business Class cabin, the team had spared no expense. Magically, Alitalia seems to have been able to craft the ideal blend of each of these difficult “good food” factors. It is no wonder Alitalia has won for the seventh consecutive year the highly coveted “Best Airline Cuisine” award by Global Traveler.
“It’s hugely gratifying to the airline to see that the quality and variety of Italian cuisine we have on board our flights is recognized in a positive light by discerning frequent flyers. Alitalia has made huge investments in the past 2 years on in-flight products and service delivery. We have introduced in long-haul business class the ‘Dine Anytime’ concept which allows our customers to decide when they want to eat,” Ms. Tiedt explained.
Alitalia pasta course (c) Sery Kim
While the food service menu changes every three months, the pasta is one consistent element of the Alitalia food service. During the first course, naturally the pasta course, I had a choice between a pin styled Agnolotti pasta, served in white meat sauce, as well as a traditional Tajarin long pasta with a concassee, butter and rosemary sauce. When the steward saw I had a tough time figuring out which of these to order, he crafted a starter with both and it was tremendously delightful. I would have eaten more but I had indulged heavily in Casa Alitalia’s pasta selection!
Second course is a choice between lamb and fish, and you can close out your meal with cheeses, desserts, and even a Piedmontese Tasting Board with cured ham and warmed oregano focaccia bread. I loved the Piedmontese Tasting Board so much I ordered it for breakfast which you can onboard since they do not serve food at a set time but rather whenever the traveler wants to eat.
As for beverages, don’t miss the chance to order an Aperitivo Campari, particularly the Aperol Spritz. So fresh you can barely taste the alcohol, which is dangerous. Plenty of wine or LavAzza coffee is also part of the menu. Alitalia has an official partnership with Cantine Ferrari, Alitalia’s official sparkling wine, as well as whites and reds from Piemonte and Liguria both to the west in Italy.
I really enjoyed the entire experience – wifi onboard as well — and can’t wait to fly Alitalia again!