The Island of Pandas (Fiat Pandas, That Is)

The Italian island of Pantelleria covers simply over 32 sq. miles. It sits within the sea like a pebble flicked off the soccer ball of Sicily after it was struck by Italy’s boot. It is a spot of nice pure magnificence, all scorching springs and vistas of the Mediterranean, with a inhabitants of scarcely greater than 7500 folks.

However folks do not type many of the inhabitants right here, as a result of the volcanic island can also be dwelling to the best variety of Fiat Pandas per sq. mile. It is an uncommon phenomenon that is led Fiat to launch a documentary in regards to the folks and the Pandas of Pantelleria.

old fiat pandas in pandelleria


The documentary is named Pandelleria, and in the event you’re seeking to broaden your horizons with a foreign-language movie, then skip the Oscar-winning documentaries and provides this 30-minute quick a glance.

“What’s with all of the Pandas, you ask?” says one of many documentary’s topics, a winemaker and mechanic. “We disassemble them day-after-day, now we have 1,000,000 Pandas [on] the island. Now we have solely Pandas right here.”

white fiat panda in pandelleria


Maybe not fairly 1,000,000, however Pantelleria is really infested with Pandas. All three generations. Watching a boxy Eighties Panda 4×4 getting flung down a rural gravel street in really Italian vogue (carrying a cargo maintain stuffed with grapes for the wine press) helps the viewer begin to perceive why that is. Pandas are small, economical, simply repaired, and surprisingly robust. Simply the factor for all times on an remoted island the place self-reliance is essential.

The documentary was directed by award-winning Italian filmmaker Giovanni Troilo, who beforehand gained popularity of his portrayal of the folks of Rome and people who reside within the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The movie includes a sequence of vignettes of farmers, foragers, mechanics, a restaurateur, a beekeeper, and even a non secular information to point out how the Panda is solely part of on a regular basis life on the island.

italy, sicily, pantelleria island gadir, the port

Maremagnum|Getty Pictures

Vacationers to Pantelleria are all however assured a Panda-centric expertise. It is because the one mannequin of automobile that native rental businesses inventory is—you guessed it—the Panda.

Launched in 1979, the Panda wore bodywork penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro. It was amongst his most beloved designs.

landascape cala cinque denti, pantelleria island, trapani, sicily, italy

Paolo Negri|Getty Pictures

Easy, sq., and powered by a pint-size engine, the unique Panda—like people who adopted it—was unpretentious and sensible. Greater than 4 million Pandas had been bought all through the first-generation automobile’s 23-year manufacturing run. Three generations in and greater than 40 years later, the Fiat Panda stays one of many best-selling autos in Italy.

The message of Pandelleria is much less in regards to the Pandas of Pantelleria and extra in regards to the lifetime of the native islanders. Somewhat than taking middle stage, the Panda serves as a relentless backdrop. On Pantelleria, Panda possession is just like the solar, just like the saltwater, just like the wine and music on the finish of a day’s work. It is not only a automobile, it is part of life on Pantelleria.

Automobile and driverAutomobile and driver Lettermark emblem

Contributing Editor

Brendan McAleer is a contract author and photographer based mostly in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He grew up splitting his knuckles on British cars, got here of age within the golden period of Japanese sport-compact efficiency, and started writing about automobiles and other people in 2008. His specific curiosity is the intersection between humanity and equipment, whether or not it’s the racing profession of Walter Cronkite or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He has taught each of his younger daughters how one can shift a guide transmission and is grateful for the excuse they supply to be perpetually shopping for Sizzling Wheels.