Call me childish, but every time I see a spicy coloured vespa, I do a little clap of glee. Aren’t they just the ultimate eye candy? The stylish green one above was shot outside the dipartimento di polizia. The yellow one below was found in Chioggia, a small town on an island about 16 miles south of Venice, (it’s a delectable miniature version of the Serenissima and known for lace-making with bobbins.)
I like the fact the yellow wall has no qualms that the lemon vespa is hogging all its yellow glory. At the time the photo was taken, there was not an anima on the street, no sign of life nor stirring Chioggians.
A spot of history to avoid only shallow admiration of appearance: ‘Moped’ comes from a linguistic blend of ‘motor’ and ‘pedal’ and was invented by Swedish journalist Harold Neilson in 1952. Imaginatively, ‘noped’ is the term used for mopeds with no pedals.
So, how did something a man named Harold invent become so sexy?
Well, my mistake as I discover a moped is not the same as a scooter, people! Someone on an Internet forum is cross that people still confuse the two.
“A moped is a motorized bicycle. MOtorized PEDal.” He shouts. “The difference between a scooter and a motorcycle is that “you sit IN a scooter and you sit ON a motorcycle.”
Moving on. The scooter Vespa means wasp in Italian, and there’s even a false verb that goes around: ‘vespare’. Look at that, a phrase too:
Chi Vespa argenta la vita
“Whoever ‘vespers’ leads an enriched life” (literally ‘makes his or her life silver.’)
As tends to be the case this light, stylish thing was born from an urgent need for a modern and cheap mode of movement for the masses.
Post-World War II Italy, with it’s drooping economy and ruined roads didn’t encourage making more cars. Cue the dashing Enrico Piaggio, (son of the Piaggio kingdom,) who noted Italy required something decent and nippy to get it on its feet again.
Piaggio managed to reel in aeronautical engineer, Corradino d’Ascanio, to redesign the scooter. He detested the old motorcycle, particularly having to scavalcare (climb over) the vehicle before arriving at the seat. Naturally, this meant he was the ideal figure to create a brand new version.
Our engineer innovatively modelled the steering position around the design of a man sitting comodamente on an armchair. Zipping here and there in a bouncy chair maintaining impeccable trousers due to no oil dribble – the guy cracked it.
The stylish Vespa was gorgeous for women too, in a time when women didn’t have much luxury to splash about in. The step-through frame meant that women could even ride it in skirts. In the 1953 rom-com Roman Holiday with Oscar winner Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck (first name Eldred I might add,) the two buzzed languidly around a deserted Rome, on gite riflessive (contemplative excursions.) Ultimately, the world wanted to spin as stylishly as they did. Unsurprisingly, this blockbuster kicked out 100,000 sales.
Women were sexy and men were moody mods, think of Matt Damon in The Talented My Ripley. The Vespa has since made a buzzing appearance in at least 45 different films.
Ironically, the Vespa was only created for intermediary purposes: a momentary alternative to cars for the masses intended to carry Italian manufacturers over an anxiety-inducing post-war dry period. A snatched idea if you will and an economic distraction before resuming traditional aeronautical construction.
Now that I’ve done my homework, and am still organising my Italian driver’s license, can I please get one?
Or at least sign up for The Vespa Trip across Tuscany?