Finding driving heaven with the imperfectly perfect Fiat 500
When you think of the perfect road trip, you think of supercars, clear blue sky and roads like Stelvio Pass. We did nothing close to this, and arguably, it just made it better. Here´s why.
Firstly, when you are deciding what car to bring along, you basically have three options. If you live close you can bring your own car, whatever car that might be, kindly ask your mate to come along if he brings his car, or go for the option most people end up doing, renting a car. Renting a Ferrari drains your wallet. Trust me, I have checked. Looking for a cabriolet of some sort is not much cheaper. Being a poor student abroad did not help either, even though I had a couple of friends with me to help reduce the price.
When you are doing a road trip, you have to ask yourself this. Why are you taking a car? The answer is for the act of driving together with experiencing awesome new places. Sure, pushing a fast car on some of the best roads in Europe is something everyone should do, including me. However, it is as important to do it in a car that you can push to the limit without actually risking losing both your license and your life. With all of these factors in mind, the car of our choice was the fiat 500. Cheap price, check. Tiny engine, check. Italian design and culture. Check.
With the car fixed, we only needed a road, and since this trip was only a day trip, we needed something close. Thankfully, the city we started from was Turin, which meant that the Alps were the only logical choice. Stelvio pass? Too far away. After some quick internet search, we found an area called Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. With only one road going through, plus being very close to Turin, it seemed like the perfect destination.
There was one slight problem though, the weather. With tall mountains, the fog and clouds does not have anywhere to go. This together with the fact that it was November meant that there was no sun, or sky, to be seen. This however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
After meeting my friends at the airport and taking the keys to our little Fiat, we headed out. To avoid the Autostrada, which you have to pay for to use, it would take 2 hours to get there. Thus giving us plenty of time for breaks and photographs, which was needed since we stumbled upon a hidden gem.
Driving in November might not seem like the brightest idea, but with the less cold weather in the southern of Europe, it was full on autumn. Yellow, orange and red as far as the eye could see, and low flying clouds created a pocket of clean air for our little Fiat to drive through the small mountain roads. One more advantage with driving in November meant almost no traffic. Great for spirited driving.
As we found out, the road that lead to Gran Paradiso is used for cycle races, which meant it was in very well condition, apart from being littered with serpentine roads and massive inclines. Along the road were some lakes with beautiful blue/greenish water, and we had to take a break and take some pictures. The goal was not reached yet though, and after a couple of minutes, we were heading towards the end of this magnificent road, and then we reached it. Unfortunately, during the colder days of the year, the end, and the best part of the road, is closed. Quite a big letdown since that part of the road looks truly amazing. However, just before is a huge mountain hill with a fountain, and if you are brave enough, you can climb to a big plateau which sticks out from the side of the mountain. It takes a few minutes to take the view in.
Reaching the end point, or closed part or the road, we realized it was time to go back. This was a perfect time to figure out if the Fiat 500 is the perfect car for road trips, and a good car in general. Being a small car and three rather tall guys, we were surprised that we actually could fit in the car. The disadvantage is the lack of boot space. Luckily, the only thing we needed to bring with us was snacks. The interior is in dire need of an upgrade though. It is trying to look like an old motorboat, which might have worked when the new generation 500 was launched in 2007, but looks sheepishly out of date in 2019. Is it quirky? Maybe, but uniqueness only goes so far.
Power then. A monstrous 1.2 L naturally aspirated engine with 69 horsepower. You read that right. 69 horsepower. I have never driven a car with this little horsepower, but I am glad that I did. Having to plan your gearshifts is an aspect I have never had to think about before, and needing to use the engine to the limit every single time is outright fun. Maybe not the most exhilarating experience, but a worthy road trip car. The act of driving a car is in the end not about the goal, it is the how you get there.
The Fiat 500 is an underpowered car that has remained unchanged for over a decade, and it feels, but there is something you can´t put your finger on. Some magic that can’t be explained. It has to be experienced. A full on review of the Fiat 500 will come soon.