A classic, a timeless icon, it shaped Italy’s post-World War II pop culture, representing one of the flagships of Made in Italy. It is the “Vespa”, the two-wheeled world’s most popular. Its innate elegance , its timeless charm have made it a model of style and design becoming throughout the twentieth century a status symbol in the world of film, television and Italian and International costume.
Historical and Social Context
With its musically-flowing yet minimalist lines and its practical functionality, the Vespa is the fruit of a technological revolution that upturned the concept of mobility in the mid-20th Century. From the meeting of two great minds – smart entrepreneur Enrico Piaggio and innovative designer Corradino D’Ascanio – everybody’s favorite scooter came into being. The pair simply wanted to re-start Italy’s economic engine, but the result turned out to be much more: today, it is the most famous and widespread scooter on the planet, as well as the epitome of Italy’s post-War trajectory.
The “Vespa” is born
In the spring of 1946, a small and quirky two-wheeled vehicle from the simple and elegant design was introduced to the public. A model with smooth flowing lines with a new style for a two-wheeled vehicle, it was targeted at young professionals and women, who could now ride while wearing a skirt, and without having to worry about the messiness of dirt, mud and oil.
Originally, this little moto was to be called “Paperino” (meaning little duck), but upon seeing it, Enrico Piaggio declared that it resembled a “Vespa,” that is, a wasp. Starring in one of the world’s favorite films, the Vespa soon became the symbol of Italy ‘s post-war and appeared in many movies and postcards of Italy. Burned on our memories are Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck zipping around the sunny Eternal City on their gorgeous white Vespa, selling not only a product, but a mood. It is the famous William Wyler’s Roman Holiday.
The dream of Italy, that good life that most of us crave, is encapsulated in the Vespa, in all its versions and colors. It is by now routine that tourists rent their own so that they can glide along the streets of the Ethernal City, or even though the hills of Tuscany or Sicilian Coasts. And don’t we all want, even if for just a day, our own personal Roman holiday?
Many Vespa owners not only get around on their scooters on an exclusively quotidian, utilitarian basis: the Vespa is also made for fun, and particularly in warmer months, owners participate in rallies or take on a small trip in their native Italy, enjoying the wind in their hair and the sights and scenery along the way.
If you are in the heart of north-western Tuscany , close to Pisa, and not far from Florence , the Museo Piaggio in Pontedera is an experience not to be missed: here you can retrace the history of the globe’s most beloved set of two wheels.