May 9th, 2019
The other day whilst we were out and about in our beautiful Snowdonia, we came across a swarm of beautiful Vespa Scooters – all zipping along and enjoying riding on some of the country’s finest roads (and many that are well known favourite routes for bike and scooter riders – and with views like we’ve got, it’s not surprising!).
The little scooters looked so wonderful – a stream of bright colours and happy riders. It inspired us to find out a little more about them……
Vespa is one of the most iconic brand of scooters in the world today, and has been since the first one rolled off the production line in 1946. Vespa scooters have inspired fans, followers and clubs around the world, and have been stars of the big screen too.
Vespa scooters are made by Italian manufacturers Piaggio. The company began life in 1884, producing railway carriages and locomotives, and then moved on to fighter planes during the Second World War. However, once the war had ended and demand for bomber planes fell, Piaggio turned their attention to solving one of Italy’s modern problems in the aftermath of war – an affordable, quick and reliable mode of transport for the masses.
And so the Vespa was born! After over two years of design and development, the very first Vespa scooter was made in 1946, and they were an instant hit. Famed for the large (and often brightly painted!) metal casing over the engine to protect the rider from mud and oil, and for the wide and flat footplate which made balancing easier, the Vespa scooter appealed to men and women alike. The ultimate Vespa claim – that Vespa scooters were so easy to ride.
On seeing the finished product for the first time, Enrico Piaggio (son of Piaggio’s founder) was said to proclaim “Sembra una vespa!!” meaning, “it looks like a wasp!” and so the new scooter was named.
Sales of the Vespa climbed steadily during the end of the 1940’s, but it was an appearance in Hollywood that really catapulted this fabulous little scooter to fame. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck rode onto screens on a Vespa in Roman Holiday, which boosted sales by over 100,000 for the Piaggio company.
Soon, a Vespa scooter was the thing to be seen on; John Wayne reportedly used one to zoom between takes on film sets, and Marlon Brando and Dean Martin were also proud Vespa owners. Vespa clubs popped up throughout Europe and by 1956, Vespa passed the 1 million sales mark. It was the only scooter to be seen on during the rocking fifties and swinging sixties.
And the Vespa brand is still going strong today. The scooters have been dubbed design and cultural icons, with their retro styling, unique shape and bright colours. Thanks to the fashionable resurgence of all things vintage, Vespa scooters are enjoying huge popularity once more, and they’re a hit not only with urban commuters who want to beat the queues of traffic and be able to park easily, but with stylish fashionistas who want to make the ultimate scooter statement.
So, next time you see a Vespa scooter out and about in Snowdonia, then why not give them a wave!!