Every bystander we passed, young and old, broke into smiles and many waved, but it was the cyclists pedalling by in their Giro d’Italia-style outfits that responded most enthusiastically. “Ciao!”, “Che bello!”, and the universal OK sign, were reactions proffered by each and all. It was completely understandable. Because looking at this car is like looking at a puppy. Who wouldn’t smile and want to pet it? In fact, if this little automobile doesn’t instantly cheer you up, then something’s seriously wrong.
I’m in Puglia, on the boot heel of Italy, driving along the Adriatic coast in what is easily the most irresistible car on the planet: the FIAT 500 Jolly Icon-e Spiaggina. Part of the Selezione Italiana Collection by Hertz, this little motorcar is the brainchild of Garage Italia. While it’s brand new, it’s also old, and it's this historical story that is a large part of its enormous allure. Back in the 1950s, legendary FIAT scion, international playboy and immortal style icon, Gianni Agnelli wanted, as the tale goes, a ship-to-shore car on his yacht as he cruised the chic towns of the Mediterranean. So he chose a diminutive, lightweight FIAT (which stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, in case you wondered) 500 and had Ghia create what would become the archetypal Riviera car – the Jolly Spiaggina. With no doors or roof, and fitted with wicker seats to accommodate wet swim suits, it became an instant icon.