A few months back, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Italy and drive in the Mille Miglia. Jaguar sponsored my trip, and as a result I was able to be co-driver in a ‘54 Jaguar C-Type, and drive a brand-new F-Type R Coupé at high speeds on the autostradas. Because I’m severely wrong in the head, though, I think I was most excited to drive this Piaggio Ape.
Let me just set the scene for you here where and when this video was shot, if I may. This wasn’t a planned Jason Drives shoot, which usually involve a crew numbering in the hundreds, several helicopters, and at least three “Jason” animatronic suits that are controlled by specially trained muskrats.
This time it was just me and another journalist named Clifford Atiyeh (who I should thank for stepping up to take all this iPhone video!), sort of lost after we decided to get off the big autostrada and look for some fun back roads as we drove through Italy in our beautiful, loaned Jaguar F-Type Coupé R. I’d been seeing Apes all over the place in Italy, doing pretty much everything I imagine Italian mules were doing in the mid 1800s. Well, except for having people inside them, texting.
I was driving, and as I rounded a bend in a really satisfyingly twisty road up in some mountainous area in Tuscany, yet another Ape caught my eye. This one was parked in a little driveway, so, determined to get behind the wheel of one while I was in Italy, I stopped.
I got out of the car and walked to the little meat and cheese shop’s door. It was a combination farm and store, and it was so adorably, appealingly rural-Italian picturesque that I think if I saw it in some movie with Julia Roberts I would have rolled my eyes and thought “Bullshit. Places like that don’t exist.” Oh, but they do.
I talked to the kind woman behind the counter, and it quickly became apparent that not only could I not understand a word she said, she couldn’t understand anything I said except for “Piaggio Ape” and that I think I seemed like a wild-eyed loon.
She smiled, and was friendly, but I could see behind the forced smile and the darting eyes that she had no idea why this tiny, crazed American would have pulled up in an absurdly expensive and fast sports car and then wouldn’t shut up about her crappy three-wheeled truck.
Eventually, with the help of Google Translate and my phone, I got enough of the concept across that she decided to summon her sons, who had just a bit more English and I was eventually able to convey what I wanted to do.
One son in particular, Carlo, was very proud of his little Ape, and was happy to have a chance to show it off. They used it for all sorts of jobs on their farm, which has cows and sheep and a pack of the most amazing Italian Sheepdogs I’ve ever seen — look at those guys in that video! I loved the crap out of those big, friendly, head-pushy dogs.
The Ape proved to be a blast to drive, in its simple, utilitarian way. They let me hoon it around on their big open field, let me weave it through the equipment and animals and piles of things on the farm, and I gained a lot of respect for this little ubiquitous workhorse.
Even better, after driving the Ape, another son, one with much more English, came home, and showed me his prized Vespa in their centuries-old farmhouse’s basement. It was about as intense an Italian experience as you could hope for aside from doing an 8-Ball made of calzones and Ferrari oil. It was fantastic.
So, thanks so very very much to the good family who runs what I believe is called the Azienda Agricola Cormezzano — everyone who likes cheese and meat (meaning, of course, everyone, even you vegans have to appreciate this in some way) should order something amazing from them, just because.
And, to all you Piaggio Ape owners out there, just know that there’s at least one man on earth who stopped driving a Jaguar F-Type just for a chance to drive one of your humble little tripodial trucks.
I regret nothing.
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