Today, 23 April, marks the 70th birthday of one of Italy’s icons: the Vespa. To celebrate, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to revisit this two-wheeled vehicle’s best bits, from its unveiling to its starring roles in movies.
Today, Vespa, it’s all about you!
Where it all started…
The Vespa was first showcased to the general public in 1946. General Corradino D’Ascanio, an Italian aeronautical engineer (who, coincidentally, invented the helicopter), turned his attention to motor scooters. He worked with Ferdinando Innocenti (creator of the Lambretta scooter) and the two men came up with what we know today as the Vespa. That same year, it was introduced to Enrico Piaggio, the owner of an engineering business who would eventually become the Vespa manufacturer.
How did it get its name?
When Enrico Piaggio first viewed the MP6 prototype, he believed it looked like a wasp. Wasp in Italian and Latin is, of course, Vespa – giving it the name we know today.
Over the years, Italy’s great icon has met some of the world’s biggest movie stars. The most notable is the well-loved Roman Holiday, which not only shot the Spanish Steps to fame, but also the Vespa. The beautiful Audrey Hepburn rode on the back of a Vespa with love interest Gregory Peck through the streets of Rome. In fact, when the movie hit screens in 1953, Vespa’s sales skyrocketed – some believe it has Roman Holiday to thank for its 70 years of success.
Other movie credits include To Catch a Thief, where the Vespa met Alfred Hitchcock; Larry Crowne, where it shared the screen with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts; and Quadrophenia, a 1979 British movie set in London.
Vespa in 2016
To date, over 18 million Vespas have been sold worldwide. For real enthusiasts, its 70th birthday brings a special scooter specifically to celebrate seven stylish decades. Taking it right back to the scooter everyone loves, the birthday edition of the Vespa comes in azure blue with leather seats and, of course, is branded with a ‘70’ logo on the side. Although the look of the latest Vespa is classic, we’re sure it hides some of the newest mechanical technology.
Did you know? There have been 138 different versions of the Vespa since it was first invented.
Vespa and Italy
Enough of the history lesson – now, let’s find out how you can enjoy the Vespa on your next trip to Italy. Cities such as Rome, Florence and Naples are great to see from this two-wheeled vehicle. Florence, in fact, is the actual birthplace of the Vespa, so why not ride from art gallery to museum? For a truly authentic Italian experience, ride through Tuscany’s countryside and stop off at medieval villages, olive groves and vineyards.
Naomi Moreno-Melgar, Citalia’s Head of PR, recently enjoyed a trip to Rome where she and her family explored Rome by Vespa. We asked her what she thought…
“A Vespa tour was such an amazing way to explore Rome. Not only did we get to experience an authentic Italian Vespa, but it gave us a great grounding to where everything was in the city and those iconic sights we wanted to explore more of. It’s not for everyone and you do need a little confidence, but a tour guide is always leading the way and you drive incredibly slowly while absorbing endless history.”