AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 ICONIC ITEMS - THE VESPA

Welcome to our new series, ‘Around The World In 80 Iconic Items’. As the name suggests, we’ll be travelling around the world not simply by country or ports of call, but via a series of iconic items. To start the series we thought we’d begin with the Vespa scooter that, perhaps, more than any other vehicle, epitomises chic, city living in Italy and a love of La Dolce Vita.
Subsequently, we’ll be looking at all sorts of intriguing items from across the globe, items that have profoundly influenced the way we live today.
 

How The MP6 Became The ‘Vespa’

 

These days the naming of a mass-market automotive product is often a long and convoluted process involving focus groups and long consideration about the impact of the name across multiple sales territories. In post-war Italy resources were scarce and time was of the essence. So, when Enrico Piaggio first saw the first MP6 prototype and declared ‘It looks like a wasp!’ the name stuck and a legend was born – Vespa means wasp in both Latin and Italian.
Surreal Scooter - Discover Dali’s Vespa

 

If you’re sailing the Mediterranean on a cruise to Florence then, aside from the Renaissance treasures to be found in Florence, you might want to pay a visit to the Piaggio Museum near Pisa where, amongst other wonderful examples, you’ll find a Vespa that was customised by Dali himself.
How The Vespa Took Hollywood By Storm

 

A cruise to Civitavecchia makes Rome easily accessible and, if you want to re-live the films from the ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’ period, then why not start with ‘Roman Holiday’? Starring Gregory Peck as the hard-bitten American newsman and Audrey Hepburn in her first major role – she picked up several awards - it’s a charming film with Rome providing a brilliant backdrop for the period of romantic comedy. However, we feel the Oscar probably should have gone to the 1951 Vespa 125cc that the couple share on an occasionally hair-raising trip through the city.

Unless you’re a seasoned scooter rider, we don’t necessarily recommend you hire a Vespa to see Rome, although MSC Cruises do offer a cycling tour and more conventional tours that will show you all the sites including; the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican City and, of course, the Spanish Steps where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck meet ‘properly’ for the first time.
From 50s Rome To 60s Brighton - The Vespa Is Still The Star

 

In truth Vespa’s have appeared in countless films but, aside from ‘Roman Holiday,’ surely the most iconic is ‘Quadrophenia’ filmed in the late 70s and depicting a gritty tale of working-class life for a motley crew of Mods and Rockers in 1960s Britain. Although the Vespa meets an ignominious end in the film’s denouement, the notion that the little Italian scooter represents a passport to independence and personal freedom is celebrated perfectly.

The Vespa – La Dolce Vita On Two Wheels

 

Aside from Brighton on a Bank Holiday, the best way to see the Vespa in the wild is on an MSC cruise to the Mediterranean, although come to think of it, you’re almost as likely to spot a Vespa in Dubai or Hong Kong given the iconic little scooter’s universal popularity. It is, simply, La Dolce Vita, on wheels!