Stylish, practical, innovative, classic… descriptions of the Vespa, the iconic Italian scooter, are endless. These vehicles aren’t just nice to look at, they’re also a very unique way to explore Italy. You can rent a Vespa in many cities. Doing so just might be the highlight of your holiday in Italy.
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The iconic Italian cruiser
There’s just something so stereotypically Italian about cruising through the streets on one of these sexy scooters. Stop for a gelato or just buzz by the sights. With the wind in your hair and the sun in the sky, you’ll really feel like a local. And besides having the chance to rent a Vespa in Italy, you can also learn more about the interesting history of these vehicles, which were invented in the middle of the 20th century and very quickly took over the popular imagination.
The surprising history of the Vespa
Born from the genius of the Piaggio Aircraft company at the end of World War II, Vespas were originally a creative way to recycle the surplus of tiny auxiliary engines, aluminium sheets and fat wheels used on their warplanes. The stylish scooter really took off, and soon became a symbol of freedom and a flagship of the youthful Italian worldview.
The Vespa instantly became a popular mode of transport among the cramped and crooked streets of Italian cities. The scooter was also taken up by young people in countries like Britain, where the so-called “mod” youth culture adopted the Vespa, popularised by The Who’s album and subsequent film Quadrophenia.
Anyone interested in the Vespa and its history should visit the Piaggio museum in Pontedera, Tuscany. Here you can admire legendary models of the Vespa like the flying submarine of secret agent “Dick Smart 2.007” and the most valuable Vespa in the world, which surrealist artist Salvador Dali decorated.
Tour the hills on two wheels
Besides learning more about the history of the Vespa, you can experience the excitement riding one and exploring the spectacular hills of Tuscany on a group tour from Florence. In one of our Tuscan village destinations a friendly Vespa rental company will kit you out for a day exploring on your own. Or you can follow the romantic trail of Gregory Peck & Audrey Hepburn from the famous film Roman Holiday by cruising through the center of Rome on a relaxed tour with our expert guide. There’s no better way to sample “La Dolce Vita.”
But Vespas aren’t the only option if you’re looking to explore Italy on wheels…
Ride the Ape
The Ape (pronounced a-pay, meaning ‘bee’ in Italian, whereas a vespa is a wasp) is another alternative way to get around. Also made by Piaggio and better known as a rickshaw, the Ape is a popular delivery or mini pickup truck in many Italian cities. They’re quirky and a whole lot of fun. The model used for tours is the Ape Calessino, a retro-styled limited edition with a soft-top roof.
There are numerous Apé tours you can take in Rome and other cities. In some smaller towns, hotels and accommodation providers use these quirky automobiles to ferry people and their luggage. It’s just another way that Italians show off their style in even the simplest activities.
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Stephan Delbos is an internationally published writer and editor. Born in the US, he has lived, worked and traveled in Europe for a decade. He’s fond of oysters and arid martinis.