The three wheeler cars that buzz around our villages are a modern version of the donkey which until 50 years ago was Italy’s beast of burden. But when Piaggio created this spin off of the Vespa (wasp) scooter in 1948 there was no turning back.
The Ape (bee, for its engine’s sound) models run from the fancy Calesse model with wicker seats that film stars used to zoom around the narrow lanes of Capri, Ischia and Portofino in the 1960s, to those rustic beasts of burden used by farmers and artisans to haul (small portable tanks) everything from hay bales to gas bombole.
There are more than 2 million Ape in use in Europe alone and the streets of Mumbai and Bangkok are flooded with them, although their true home are Italian country roads. The reasons for its success? The Ape is economical to operate, can be driven without a license, and they can be decorated, personalized and in a pinch two can ride up front with space in the back for cargo.