The Vespa is without doubt the most iconic scooter around and there’s no better place to learn about its history than at the Piaggio Vespa Museum. Since the 1950’s, the Vespa has appeared in a countless number of movies, music videos and commercials, creating an almost mythical aura. I always wondered what it was that made the Vespa so appealing. Brilliantly executed marketing strategies obviously played a significant role in creating an aura of romance and reliability, but there’s something about this scooter that always grabs my attention… and I’m not talking about the noise it makes. Its instantly recognisable design perhaps or the way Italians sit so elegantly on its leather seat? One thing is certain: when I see the Vespa buzzing down a street anywhere in the world, I think of Italy.
A visit to the Museo Piaggio (Piaggo Museum) in Pontedera (map), about 20km east of Pisa, provides unique insights into the history of the Vespa. As visitors enter the museum, the first thing they’ll see is not a Vespa, but rather a train! Not many people know this but before the first Vespa was ever made, the Piaggio company specialised in designing the interiors of trains. They later branched out into ship-building and aviation before finally finding the magic formula in the shape of the Vespa in the late-1940’s.
A gallery exhibiting old documents and photos trace the fascinating history of the Piaggio company and the creation of the first Vespa design. A passage through an art gallery then leads visitors to the central hall where Vespas in all shapes, sizes and colours are showcased. In the corner of the central hall, visitors can watch the history of the Vespa in movies – an excellent documentary which I recommend taking the time to watch. Please scroll down for a photo essay of the Piaggio Vespa Museum.
Want to ride a Vespa? Check out this Vespa tour of Florence.
If you’re visiting Tuscany and you’re in the vicinity of Pisa, I highly recommend checking out the Piaggio Museum. The Vespa scooters are the main attraction but there are many elements which piqued my interest such as the history of Italian design and innovation, clever marketing techniques used to promote the Vespa both in movies and in print, and the contemporary art exhibition. Even if you’re not interested in motorbikes or scooters, the museum makes for a more than worthwhile visit.
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