Italian Culture

The Story Behind the Iconic Ape Cars of Italy

The Ape is a ubiquitous work vehicle that's iconic in Italy. What Ape means in Italian plus the history of the Ape Car in Italy.

Now that I live in the Italian Alps I hear an Ape zip by my balcony around 5 o’clock every day. Maybe in time, it will get annoying, but right now, it’s full of charm. If you’ve never been to Italy or heard an Ape run, take a listen to the video below. You’ll quickly see where the Ape got its name!

Ape Car

After the war, many Italian families were living in poverty. In response, Piaggio began producing the Ape in 1948. The designer behind the Vespa came up with the idea of adding a third wheel to balance a rear flatbed across the axle and the VespaCar or TriVespa was born.

Ape Car
Ape Car Image from Piaggio La festa per celebrare la versione 50 cc dello storico veicolo. Apini da tutta Italia sono arrivati nella città della Piaggio (Video Silvi)

The cab was added in later models to protect the driver. The VespaCar earned its nickname Ape thanks to the distinctive buzzing sound it makes while zipping around small villages.

In Italy, Apes are still used as they were traditionally designed by Piaggio to be, as work vehicles. Outside of Italy, you might have seen an Ape and not even known it. Commonly used as food trucks, coffee carts, and breweries on the go!

Now you know!

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