The Lure of the Italian Vespa


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Classic vintage vespa

The classic vintage vespa

The vintage Vespa is, without a doubt, one of the most recognised symbols of Italy. This simple, practical vehicle can be seen and heard in the main squares of towns and cities all over Italy, and is famous not only for its design, but also for being the first ever globally successful scooter. And it originated right here in Tuscany.

As the Second World War came to an end, the Piaggio family, like the rest of Italy, found themselves struggling. They were keen to reinvent their business in the post war economic climate, but needed to come up with an idea that would appeal to the public. The answer? A basic, functional and cheap mode of transport. After all, transportation was still vital; it just had to be affordable. So, at their factory in the Tuscan town of Pontedera, Enrico Piaggio had an idea for an inexpensive, practical two-wheeled vehicle. And thus, the Vespa was born.

Based on the shape of the engine and the sound that it made, the name Vespa (meaning ‘wasp’ in English) seemed to be the perfect choice. Although sales were slow at the time of its launch in 1946, by the time 1950 rolled around, the company was producing more than 60,000 units per year. It gained much public support, and the fact that it was being licensed for production in other countries around the world definitely helped to boost its popularity.

In the 1960s, the Vespa was simply everywhere, and had come to symbolise freedom and imagination. It was also great for dealing with post war roads, traversing cities with ease and of course, avoiding the parking conundrums that are still very much apparent in Italian cities today! The popularity of the classic Vespa was also largely due to its appearance in movies, both Italian and international. The first major film was of course, Roman Holiday, which saw Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck weaving their way around Rome on a Vespa. This had an enormous boost on the Vespa’s popularity. Since then, these vehicles have been used frequently in cinema, including Nanni Moretti’s Italian film ‘Caro Diario’ , which shows the main character spending a lot of time on a Vespa, taking in magnificent views.

Why not try out the vintage Vespa experience for yourself, and join one of our Vespa tours in Italy? This new tour gives you the opportunity to hop onto a classic Vespa and explore wonderful countryside surrounding Florence. You can enjoy fantastic views of the city, admire castles and villas and enjoy a glass of Chianti wine, as well as posing for photos with your Vespa of course. So what are you waiting for, make like Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, and feel the wind through your hair!

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