The Origins of Vespa – and My Wish
The origins of the Vespa motor scooter belong to the Italian manufacturer Piaggio; the brilliant company who combine the quality that emanates from 60 years experience as a specialised scooter company, with superb modern design.
The idea for the Vespa first came about to address the need for affordable yet modern transportation during the post–second World War era. Enrico Piaggio contracted the aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio to develop the design and he began by tracing the outline of a person sitting comfortably as if he were in his own drawing room…
He then drew the scooter underneath him; a simple idea which revolutionised motorcycle design logic.
The post-war roads in Italy were filled with potholes, and the front shield was designed to protect the rider from splashes. D’Ascanio avoided using a transmission chain, and placed a small spare wheel on the vehicle so that a punctured tyre would be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. All of the controls were also placed on the handlebar, making riding easier not only for men but “for women and priests” as well.
When owner Enrico Piaggio saw the finished product, his first comments were, “Sembra una vespa!” (“It resembles a wasp!”), and the name of this beautiful little scooter thus came into being.
The Vespa doesn’t use much fuel and looks beautiful. It combines a mix of common sense, practicality and cost-effectiveness, with a series of intelligent features that together represented extraordinary productive creativity. Today Italians of all ages between 16 and 60 ride motor scooters, and in a large and old city like Rome with lots of narrow lanes and limited parking it makes complete sense to drive one instead of a car.
For me the Vespa is synonymous with freedom, with agile exploitation of space and with easier social relationships and to help celebrate this, one of my biggest wishes would be to ride the latest model – the enigmatic 946 to Italy – to Piaggio’s factory where it all began, and then onto Rome the home of the original Wall for Wishes.
You can see my wish for 2014 on ‘The Wall for Wishes’ – made this year, the year of the 60th anniversary of ‘Roman Holiday’.