The Vespa Story
When he first saw his new machine, Enrico Piaggio declared, “It looks like a wasp!” The name stuck. The birth of the Vespa changed the Italian language forever with the new verb – vespare, simply meaning to travel somewhere on a Vespa!
Post-war Italy was in need of some fun and entertainment. The Vespa’s timing was perfect. Here was a little machine which allowed you to literally step into it. It was easy to ride, reliable and maneuverable around the myriad of pot holes that plagued Italy’s roads at the time. Above all else though it was fun!
The Vespa appealed to both sexes. Its film appearance in Roman Holiday, the 1953 romantic comedy with movie greats Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, is alleged to have contributed to a spike in sales all on its own.
In fact, the Vespa has managed to cement a place in youth and film culture. Ridden by a young Sting (appropriate on a wasp?!) in the 1979 film Quadrophenia, with Matt Damon in a Talented Mr Ripley, and being raced by Gwen Stefani in a music video in 2007 to name but three.
As cities became more and more congested and fuel prices rose, the Vespa continued to meet a need. A trendy machine that allowed easy access through traffic and didn’t break the bank in the process.
While international rivals have come and gone, the Vespa has been styled and restyled repeatedly – always appearing to stay modern yet never ditching the characteristic look. Looking at a 2016 Vespa, it’s such a different machine mechanically from its 1946 ancestor, yet instantly recognisable as a relation.
It remains a design that just oozes Italian charm and sophistication. With well over 16 million Vespa motor scooters sold around the world, it’s clearly a charm that’s here to stay.