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Fiat 500 hire in Italy: here’s why it’s a good idea

Red Fiat 500 in small town

Cute as a button, tiny but comfortable, easy to maneuver, Instagram-worthy: these are only a couple of reasons why we chose this car for all the Puglia road trips we offer. The main reason being that there’s no other Italian car as iconic as the Fiat 500.

Cherished and remembered fondly by many, in Italy, the Fiat 500 is not only a fundamental part of the history of this country, but it’s also part of the history of many families.

This is the car our grandparents would drive to reach their destination on vacation and many Italians still have black and white family photos where it makes an appearance.

That’s exactly why we wanted our travelers to drive this car so that they too could feel like a local.

“What about Ferraris or Maseratis?” we can hear you say. Sure, they’re iconic and Italian, but not the most practical for the twisting roads and cramped city streets of Puglia, which is why the Fiat 500 is unbeatable for a road trip across this Italian region.

Have we piqued your interest? Then read on if you want to know more about this iconic car and what makes it a special addition to your Italian road trip.

How the myth of the Fiat 500 began

Not many are aware of this, but when the Fiat 500 was launched on the market there already was a similar model available, the Fiat 600. It was longer, more spacious and with a more powerful engine. Italians, however, needed a car that wouldn’t require a lot of petrol. The Suez Crisis in the 1950s meant that petrol cost quite a lot and the emerging middle class, who could afford to buy a car, wasn’t then able to upkeep it.

Necessity is the mother of invention and the Fiat 500 is an amazing example of ingenuity. Though the car was built for pennies, Fiat decided that its owners shouldn’t have to suffer for the pleasure.

A lot of people thought the execs at Fiat to be stupid for releasing such a similar model. Well, they were proven wrong, weren’t they?  

The Fiat 500 was a clever car. The factory needed not to spend a fortune on steel, which was very expensive then. That’s why the engineers opted for the now famous sinuous shape. Moreover, the Fiat 500 was released with a sunroof, which sounds glamorous, but came about to save on metal by replacing the car’s roof with a simple waterproof fabric.    

For these reasons, the designers at Fiat repurposed the original Fiat 600 design to fit a smaller car and that’s how the Fiat 500 was born.

The first version of the car only had a bench as the rear seat, a 13 CV engine and quite understandably, it was a flop.

Back to the drawing board, the engineers improved the initial design and released a new version, which cost 490.000 Lire (€217 in today’s money!). Just to put it into context, half a million Lire represented almost ten times the salary of a worker and six times the salary of a civil servant.

The year is 1957 and the rest is history.

Up until the Seventies, if you were walking down the street in Italy, you’d see Fiat 500 everywhere. There were those who bought it because they couldn’t afford anything else, and there were those who bought it because they could afford anything.

People just couldn’t get enough of this four-wheel equivalent of a Vespa scooter, it was a technical marvel but it also had something else: charisma.

Throughout the years, over 60 variants have been created and fans of this car include Formula 1 veterans such as Gordon Murray (the head designer at McLaren) and Ferrari pilot Michael Schumacher.

Driving an icon

From the street to the screen: it is said that this amazing car appeared more than 2,512 times in movies and TV series.

Famous examples include Disney’s “Cars” as well as the James Bond movie “Spectre”, but curiously, the Fiat 500 was featured in the cartoon Dragonball and Lupin too. The sequel to “Zoolander” also has a scene with this car.

A new era

In 1975, Fiat stopped producing the Cinquecento only to resume in 2007, regularly launching new models since then. Safer, more comfortable and hi-tech, these new versions, like the Fiat 500 POP, Cabrio Riva, X and L retain the retro vibe that made this vehicle famous.

These are also the ones we rent out on our self-drive road trips to Puglia.

To this day, the appreciation for the Fiat 500 doesn’t seem to stop, with millions of people across the world driving this tiny but mighty car.


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