I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about cars, motorcycles and the like, but I do know that when I think of Italy; one of the quintessential conduits that come to mind is the Vespa. Being one of the most well known representations of this beautiful country, the Vespa, which was founded in Tuscany, has been around since 1946 and has since then, expanded and continued to be an iconic measure of Italian culture.
“The Vespa concept was inspired by a U.S. product, the Cushman scooter. The Cushmans became frequent visitors and tourists to Italy thanks to the U.S. military moving into the [sic] Italy by 1944. […] As a result of the initial introduction, Cushmans were frequent sites on American military bases and around towns where the Americans situated themselves. The simple and small design of the vehicle began being noticed by Italian designers and automotive engineers. Ferdinando Innocenti, the first producer of the Lambretta scooter, was the first to pursue this idea seriously having Corradino D’Ascanio cook up a design to make a home-made scooter with Italian products and know-how”. – [Vespa Website]
Enrico Piaggio, son of Rinaldo Piaggio who was the founder of Piaggio & C. SpA, alongside Innocenti and D’Ascanio eventually pursued the need for an economical and viable mode of transportation that could be used by both men and women in Italy during the 1940’s. The Vespa was then invented, its name being coined due to its similar look to that of an actual wasp. (In Italian, la vespa means wasp).
Over the years, the Vespa gained mass popularity, not only in Italy but also on a global scale. This can be identified particularly after the film Roman Holiday was released in 1953. The iconic actors Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are seen cruising through Rome on this automobile, and with this, its claim to fame rose exponentially, predominantly in Hollywood. In 1952 an estimated 60,000 Vespas were sold and only four years later this number had increased to one million.
Here at Florencetown, they offer a piece of this classic Italian icon with the opportunity to experience a Vespa Tour throughout the rolling hills of Chianti. Read also our great article about the Horseback riding in Chianti!
Today, the Vespa continues to make waves despite the existence of other motorcycle companies. Personally, I believe this is because it offers a sense real nostalgia. It endures its legacy not only as an iconic symbol of Italian culture but also that of freedom and imagination. It’s definitely not a bad reputation to have, and so goes their motto, “Not just a scooter, a way of life”.
By: Tiffany Tobias