When Piaggio introduced the Vespa to post-war Italy, the timing was perfect. In a time in need of entertainment, here was a little machine that was practical, but inherently fun. It was easy to ride, reliable and manoeuvrable around the myriad pot holes that plagued Italy’s roads. And you could literally step into it – which meant it could be ridden when wearing a skirt.
When he first saw his new machine, Enrico Piaggio declared: “It looks like a wasp!”, and the name stuck. The birth of the Vespa gave Italians a new verb, vespare – simply meaning to travel somewhere on a Vespa.
The Vespa’s iconic film appearance in 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday started it on the road to cultural stardom. A young Sting rode a Vespa in the 1979 film Quadrophenia, Matt Damon stole Jude Law’s in psychological thriller The Talented Mr Ripley, and an animated Vespa led an epic chase scene in Pixar’s Ratatouille.