Pope Francis has had his taste for economy cars sated by an Italian priest who has given him a 30-year-old Renault 4L as a present.

The car, which has with some 300,000 km (190,000 miles) on the clock, was presented to the Argentinian pontiff by Fr Renzo Zocca, 69, from the northern city of Verona.

Zocca took the car to the Vatican and went for a short ride with the Pope driving.

"We jumped aboard and it wasn't necessary to explain to him too much," Zocca told local newspaper L'Arena. "The Holy Father told me he also had a Renault 4L in Argentina that never let him down."

The Vatican's Swiss Guard were left puzzled by the sight of the pontiff driving away, Zocca added.

"The security guard standing next to me was really worried because he knew that from now on he'll be going around the Vatican in my car," Zocca said."I left him some snow tyres in the boot. You never know."

Zocca had piled up the kilometres driving to centres for the poor, drug addicts and disabled people during his three-decade long activity around Verona.

He recently bought a new car and, moved by Francis's drive to create "a poor Church for the poor" wrote to him and offered the vehicle as a present.

A few weeks later, Zocca picked up the phone to hear: "Hello there, it's Pope Francis."

"I didn't know what to say, I lost my breath," Zocca told Famiglia Crisitiana magazine.

The car was a gift to Zocca in the 1980s from the chairman of Hellas Verona football club and still has a few stickers supporting the team on the boot.

Francis is known for his love of football and has never hidden his support for Buenos Aires' San Lorenzo team.

The Pope has gone on record as recommending humility and does not miss a chance to surprise Vatican observers with his down-to-earth style.

His taste for avoiding ostentatious limousines caught the media on the hope when he was driven to a meeting in a humble Ford Focus with no motorcade, security escort or flashing light.