Planet of the Apes

Ape monsterApes? They are Italy’s infamous pick-up trucks. The  Piaggio Ape has been in production since 1948 when Italians needed a cheap transport vehicle to get them back on the road to recovery after WW11. Ape Ferrari





I’m not sure how the name Ape ( meaning Bee) came about, although the noise they makes as they reeve up is like a ‘humming bee‘ and at every gear change the buzzing starts all over again.Ape vans

Driven like a scooter, with handlebars instead of a steering wheel (until the bigger model) they are super practical, cheap to buy, economical to run, and in the old days you didn’t even need a license to drive one!? Mamma mia!



I love them and seriously searched for an excuse to get one but no such luck. Living in the country I see them often, scooting about, on dangerous angles, overloaded, working hard and seemingly indestructible.Ape truckApe panel vans






A friend of mine had a delivery van and in the old days we would regularly pile in the back and buzz into the centre of Florence to park right outside the cinema – obviously illegal! All it needed was to take a corner too sharply and we would have splattered out of the tarpaulin cover across the road. Still if it tips over, you can just pick it up and sit it back on track!Ape trucks

They come in all sorts of versions – open, closed, cross country, 3 and 4 wheel drive and various motor sizes. I understand now they are produced in India still under the Piaggio name.

Farmers dote on them, and dangerously career around with unbelievable stacks of hay or cut wood balancing precariously on top. Builders, Library Apecleaners, florists, green grocers, small businesses, an exhaustive list of people use and abuse them. And now in Pisa there is even the mobile library Ape “BiblioApe”

Ape aperitivo Ape Aperitifs





Well known outside of Italy as ‘pop up stalls’, a great idea although unfortunately Italian bureaucracy finds it difficult to get its mind around that. However I did find this great Aperitivo van seen in Naples and I only hope we see more of them. We are all addicted to apertifs and apericenas. Such an elegant custom before dinner, or at an apericena a vegetarian like me can dine on the tasty specialities served in most clubs with a fashionable spritz, prosecco or glass of wine in hand.

Ape Ice cream van

Ice cream stall

Ape Coffee pop Up

Coffee pop up





These pop ups In Copenhagen:




Ape souvenir stall

Souvenir stall at ‘The Mermaid’
















I also discovered two crazy Italians – Apenautis who travelled thousands of kilometres across Europe and Asia in 2 apes, in 212 days and their ventures are documented here on you tube. Check it out!  Only Italians could think of trusting an Ape to do that and the guys are still travelling!

In Sicily I spotted quite a few converted into tuc tuc tourist taxis services  elaboratelyApe tourist taxi decorated and one even appeared here in Florence this Summer.



I am not the only one who loves this practical little van as can be seen with this Wedding car Ape parked outside of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Is that not the sweetest ceremonial car?

Ape wedding

Ape wedding





Incredibly I also found a company who converts them into  mini campervans, although you may need to be the size of a  gnome to sleep in one!

They may not be as cute as the old Fiat 500 ‘bambino’ but the Piaggio Ape certainly merits attention.