Many iconic pictures of Rome from the 1950’s or 1960’s can be found that feature young, beautiful people riding around the streets on the back of a Vespa. Immortalized in such movies as Roman Holiday, where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are seen flitting around on one, the Vespa represents quintessential Italy. It is as much a symbol of Italian life as a Fiat 500, or a pizza, or a plate of pasta.
Apart from the vintage, romanticized notion of the Vespa, it is actually a very popular mode of transportation in Italy even today. Many a pedestrian has almost been run over by a gaggle of Vespas negotiating the crazy traffic in the big cities. When visiting Italy there are many places where you can rent a Vespa and actually tour around the city or the countryside on one. I don’t know how I feel about that particular scenario, especially since Italian drivers can be a little crazy, but it definitely provides for some good stories to tell your friends when you get back home.
To me, however, there will forever be one particular image that is evoked in my mind whenever I hear the word Vespa or see an old Vespa on the street. It is an image of a 1950’s Italian goddess, much like Sofia Loren, with a scarf on her head and a pair of big dark sunglasses, in a beautiful dress, riding on a Vespa past the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain, without a care in the world…something to aspire to.