In 2010 Luca Tinello embarked on a kickass trip to prove that he could drive a tiny, three-wheeled Piaggio Ape, 218 cc, from Italy to the North Cape in Norway, Europe’s most northerly point. Nicknamed Vichingo Volante (Flying Viking), Luca wanted to do this in complete autonomy without relying on hotels, camps or restaurants and so he went to work.
The ‘Vichingo Volante’ got himself an Ape Piaggio from 1986, which he converted into a little motorhome complete with bed, wardrobes and a little ‘bathroom’ complete with chemical toilet. He installed a generator, brought 6 spare wheels, installed a second fuel tank and carried two 72-liter jerry cans for water.
Then on the 2nd of July 2010 the flying viking set off from his home town of Fagnano Olona, a small city 50 kilometers north of Milano, at a speed of 35 km/hour, the piaggio’s cruising speed, on his way to the North Cape.
Tinello passionately explains:
In two days I drove through northern Italy and arrived in Austria through the Brenner Pass. It took me four more days to arrive in Denmark but here the first troubles start. A dirty fuel carburetor reduced the engine power which forces me to find a mechanic, who managed fix the problem. Due to the necessary spare part delivery it resulted in a little delay of a couple of days.
I hit the road again and cruised the Piaggio Ape through Denmark without further problems. My choice of vehicle here proved a great asset as I am greeted by many friendly people, they honked their horns and raised their thumbs as a sign of welcome and appraisal. The Danish Vikings clearly take a liking in the Italian Flying Viking’s choice of vehicle.
I arrived in Sweden by ferry and continued my way up North with a full week of driving through Swedish forests, which at 35km/h seemed infinite. Then onward to Finland where new engine trouble forced me to stop in Rovaniemi. Piaggio Ape’s are a rarity in this part of the world and I couldn’t find the spare parts needed. I am forced to have them shipped by air from Italy adding a four day delay to the trip. When the parts finally arrived they appeared to be the wrong ones. A mechanic could adapt them to my particular needs but the only mechanic available is located in Oulu, 235 km to the South.
Having no other choice I shipped everything by courier to Oulu, where the mechanic made the necessary modifications. Once ready the mechanic shipped them back to me in Rovaniemi, or so he thought. Apparently the mechanic used the wrong shipping address and the parts ended up in another Finnish city and I had to hitchhike there to retrieve them.
Once I finally had all the necessary (modified) parts in my possession I made the necessary modifications to the engine myself in a parking lot next to the road. Finally, after much trouble I could hit the road again.
In the last section of my way to the North Cape I met a bunch of other travelers: cyclists from Slovenia and hitchhikers from Poland, which I offered a ride in the back of the Piaggio Ape. It is a bit small but it worked out beautifully.
Once at the North Cape, the generosity between travelers from around the globe was amazing. Many travelers offered me something to eat and drink, and when I went back South again, all those who overtake me greet me like old friends.
The initial idea was to go right back to Italy , but since the Piaggio Ape’s engine now runs well , I decided to make a detour to the Lofoten Islands. Here I met a French hitchhiker that I take along and we travel together for 465 kilometers in 17 hours of non-stop driving!
I said farewell to my French companion and then returned south again through Sweden on a dirt road under construction. The Piaggio’s small wheels sink deep into the gravel. Stopping only made it worse so the only way forward was to keep moving without stopping. Only after 6 hours of driving I reached the asphalt again and I could take a break. The uncomfortable driving position in the piaggio forced me to take painkillers to be able to move forward.
Unfortunately, because of the mechanical problems encountered along the way, I spent almost all my money on repairs and I am forced to eat the food supplies brought from Italy. I practically only eat only rice for more than three weeks.
Through Denmark , Germany and Austria I returned to Italy to face the mighty Passo Dello Stelvio. This 2,757 meters giant mountain became perhaps the toughest test for the piaggio’s small engine, but my faithful ape cleared the job without a glitch.
When I finally got back home after 42 days of traveling, I had an almost unbearable back pain due to the piaggio’s driving position, and it would take me more than two weeks to return to walk properly. But this minor inconvenience was definitely worth the adventure!
- Vehicle: Piaggio Ape TM 703 – 218cc two-stroke engine in the mix – 1986 –
- Weight : 1120 kg
- Journey time: 42 days from 02 July 2010 / 12 Aug. 2010
- Accessories: 650 watt generator – 6 spare wheels – to 72 -liter jerry cans of water – double the fuel tank – radio cd – chemical toilets –
- Consumption of fuel: 620 liters
- Consumption of oil: 23 pounds
- Km traveled : 10,019
- cruising speed: 35 km/h
Il Vichingo Volante (Flying Viking)