Exploring The Origins of the Vespa

Exploring The Origins of the Vespa

Vespas are more than just scooters. Over the years, they have become an icon of Italian culture and of the term "made in Italy" as a whole. They have been featured endlessly on the big screen in movies like Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" or "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn.

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"Vespa is an extraordinary story," Piaggio Group design director Marco Lambri recently stated in an interview adding that "It's a story that was born in 1946, after the Second World War thanks to Enrico Piaggio's intuition and the genuis of an engineer, Corradino D'Ascanio. At the time, Piaggio was building in the aeronautical and naval field and the owners decided to reconvert the company in a new field: personal mobility. After the war, Italy had to start up again. And through this vehicle, simple, cheap, and for everyone, they thought they could give a significant contribution."

Vespa debuted in 1946 at the Rome Golf Club, and it quickly gained popularity as it went from selling 2,500 scooters in 1947 to more than 20x that in 1950. The first models were sold for 55,000 lire, or about $245 USD at the time. Vespa prices were very competitive, and this, together with its sleek design, is what turned it into a success. Vespa has made and sold over 1.6 million scooters all over the world. Vespa differs from other scooters in that its body frame is made entirely of steel stampings that are welded together, which is exactly how Piaggio made its airplanes when it launched the scooter in 1946.

Corradino D'Ascanio, the engineer of the bike, actually didn't love motorbikes, so he designed this Vespa based on who was supposed to drive it but without the constraits of motorbikes back then. It had to be easy to use, protective, comfortable.. It’s name comes from Enrico Piaggio's exclamation when he saw the first prototype as it’s shape resembled a wasp (vespa in Italian). When he said it, he said, "It looks like a wasp!” 

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All of this combined makes it easy to understand why Vespa has made and sold over 1.6 million scooters all over the world - thus making it the go to for Italians who want to take on the open road sans the windshield 


We hope you’ve enjoyed Exploring The Origins of the Vespa! Looking to rent one of these iconic motorbikes on your next trip to Italy? We can help make the process easier with our native instructors and culturally immersive group classes! Click below to learn more.