The man frowns at me. I suspect my Italian is not good enough for “I am a motoring journalist and want to borrow your Piaggio Ape for a test drive,” after all.
Sicily was gorgeous, there’s no doubt about it, but what I really wanted was some of that two-stroke goodness. You know, the authentic smell of small-bore engines coughing sooty oil smoke into your face as you redline them mercilessly atop a cobblestone path. The European Union was coming for the two-strokes, you see, and it was probably going to be my last chance to have an authentically Italian motoring experience.
Hence the Piaggio Ape, the three-wheeled, 50cc delivery mule that fed this entire town with its selfless daily sacrifice. It was emblazoned with some kind of crude greasepaint lettering, declaring it to be the avatar of a grocery store. My attempts to do smokey burnouts and savage tire-squealing donuts in the town square might impede the smooth functionality of the business and its relationship to its patrons, I realized, in the part of my mind that still flickered dimly with moral and social obligations. I resigned myself to failure, and slunk away from the Ape 50, head cast downward.
Suddenly I heard a most beautiful sound - ring ding ding ding ding - and I knew that I would have another chance. I stepped bravely in front of the oncoming Vespa and shouted the only Italian words I had learned on this trip: “STOP! POLICE! YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR SPEEDING.”
Atop my ratty, borrowed steed, I felt the expansion chamber quiver at the slightest touch of the throttle. “Don’t worry,” I yelled in broken Italian as I sped away into the town square, leaving the Lothario who owned it handcuffed to a light standard, “I’m a motoring journalist!”