The beginnings of the Florence airport


The airport as it appeared in 1973.

Looking at the picture above, I started wondering, what’s the history of this airport?  I distinctly recall that when I made my first trip to Italy in 1979, flying from the US into Florence was not possible.

The Florence Airport, Peretola (Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola) and formally Amerigo Vespucci Airport, is the international airport of Florence. It is the second-busiest Tuscan airport in terms of passengers, after Pisa International Airport.

The first air field in Florence was created in the Campo di Marte area in 1910, when military authorities allowed a field to be used for “experiments in air navigation.” Campo di Marte was Florence’s airport throughout the 1920s. However, the field was soon surrounded by houses and was inadequate for the new aircraft that were then replacing the canvas-covered craft.

In 1928, a location on the plain between Florence and Sesto Fiorentino was chosen and  Peretola Airport opened there in the early 1930s.

At first, Peretola was pretty much just a large field where airplanes took off and landed with no formal direction. Eventually, the Ministry of Aeronautics decided to enlarge and upgrade it. The airport was extended toward Castello, and in 1938–39, an asphalt runway 60 metres wide and 1,000 metres long was built, facing the northeast.

In WWII, Peretola was used both by the Royal Italian Air Force and the Luftwaffe and then later in the 1940s welcomed its first passenger flights, operated by Aerea Teseo with Douglas DC-3 aircraft. In 1948, Aerea Teseo went out of business. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Alitalia, also using the DC-3, offered two routes: Rome–Florence–Venice and Rome–Florence–Milan. ATI then offered several domestic flights with the Fokker F27.

In the early 1980s, plans were made to upgrade the airport’s facilities. In 1984, Saf (now AdF, the company that manages the airport) was founded, and restructuring work was completed: lengthening (from 1,000 to 1,400 metres) and lighting the runway, installing a VOR/DME navigation system, and rebuilding the airport terminal. In September 1986, regular flights resumed. Since then, the number of airplanes and passengers has steadily increased.

In 1990, the airport was renamed after Florence native Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian merchant and cartographer whose name was used to name the newly discovered (by Europeans, that is) continents.

In 1992, the building now dedicated to arrivals, constructed by AdF, was inaugurated. Two years later, a departures building opened, and the City of Florence opened a car park at the entrance to the airport. In 1996, the runway was extended by 250 metres, and AdF funded further enlargement of the departure area. Today, the new area has 15 check-in desks and covers a total of 1,200 square metres, 770 of which are for public use.

Since April 9, 1998, AdF has had a global concession to managing the airport’s infrastructure, and it has assumed responsibility for maintenance and development.

On December 5, 2012, Vueling announced the opening of a base of operations in Florence, with flights to several destinations in Europe.

In late 1999, the terminals were renovated and expanded. In July 2000, AdF made its debut on the stock market, and in 2001, the airport was among the first in Europe to obtain UNI EN ISO 9001/2000 certification for the quality of its services.

Florence Airport has a single runway. As is common at smaller airports, after landing, planes turn around at the end of the runway, then taxi back down to reach the parking area and terminal. Because of the close proximity of Monte Morello, planes normally take off from Runway 23, thus forcing aircraft to taxi down the runway again to depart.


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