Happy Birthday Vespa! This year, the legendary scooter beloved worldwide, celebrates its seventieth. Piaggio patented the design of the first model of Vespa the 23rd April 1946, and few months later they started the production of the “98cc” model in their historic factory of Pontedera near Pisa in Tuscany.
Vespa, the meanings of a success worldwide
Since the beginning, Vespa was not only a scooter. It was a symbol of progress and renaissance of an entire country after the Second World War. It still represents the tangible proof of the Italian talent and of the Made in Italy. Vespa is an everlasting tradition, an emblem of freedom and adventure, and the companion of many travelers that headed out on unforgettable journeys.
The first model of the 98cc made in 1946 – Photo Credits: Turismo Emilia Romagna
Thanks to Vespa the Italian generation of 50ies discovered the gusto of the two wheels. Riding Vespa they could escape from the daily life, getting out of the cities to reach the seaside or the countryside enjoying the time with friends and lovers.
During these long seventy years Vespa increased its charm and social relevance, becoming an object of cult for thousand of people. Todays the Fan Clubs count more than 60 thousand members and every year, they join meetings all over the world to share their passion with other admirers.
Vespa hidden somewhere in the Tuscan countryside – Photo Credits: Nicola My Travel in Tuscany
70 years of Vespa
Vespa, with 18 millions of pieces, is the best selling scooter worldwide.
This scooter, that would have become the most famous of the world, was born thanks to an idea of Mr. Enrico Piaggio. At that time the family owned a factory producing aircrafts but after the two World Wars he understood that they need to convert their business to help Italians with a more modern and affordable way of transportation.
Enrico Piaggio commissioned design a new model of motorbike to the Italian aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio.
The result was a revolutionary vehicle with a series of innovations that made Vespa the myth we all know. No more bikers with their legs around the seat as a cowboy, but stylish travelers (even women with a skirt) that could stay comfortably seated as in a car, aircraft or train.
Even the name comes from the intuition of Enrico Piaggio. When he saw the first prototype he exclaimed that was resembling as a wasp for the shape of the body: the two thicker parts, front and rear, connected by a small waist and the two rear view mirrors as antennas.
The success was immediate. People loved the simplicity of the design, the ease of biking it and the reliability. The same year of the patent, the factory in Pontedera produced 2484 pieces of the brand new Vespa 98cc that were sold with a price of 55.000 lire (todays 28,50 euro).
After only ten years Piaggio sold more than a million of pieces. During these 70 years more than 150 models of Vespa were launched in the market. But the most famous remain the 125cc made in 1953.
The reputation of Vespa increased year by year even thanks to great marketing strategies and to big advertising campaigns. Even the biggest Hollywood directors, bewitched by Vespa, decided to use the scooter in their movies. The most famous testimonials at the cinema were with no doubt Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn that in the movie Roman holiday, the American romantic comedy of 1953 directed by William Wyler, ride Vespa along the street of the Italian capital.
Celebrations for the seventieth birthday
In Pontedera everything is ready for the celebration of the seventieth of Vespa. During the weekend from 23 to 25 April, the town will host a big meeting of fans coming from all over Europe and many other activities dedicated to the famous scooter. While the Piaggio Foundation dedicate a big exhibit to the history of the best selling scooter at the Piaggio museum.
And you? Have you ever dreamed to have a Vespa as scooter? If you have any picture of it, we would like to receive your shot.
If you are traveling around Tuscany during the next two months you could stop in Pontedera to visit the museum and discover many more anecdotes of this “two wheel”, or even take a daily tour along Tuscan itineraries on board of the most known wasp of the world.