Vespa Turned 75 This Week

To celebrate its birthday, Piaggio is offering a 2021-only model in throwback paint and chrome.

byKristin V. Shaw|
History photo

Matt Damon, Antonio Banderas, Audrey Hepburn, Ben Stiller, and Nicole Kidman have something in common aside from fame: they’ve all driven the Italian-made Vespa scooter in one of their movies and contributed to the iconic status of these fun vehicles. 

Both easier to drive and quieter than a motorcycle, the first Vespa was sold right after the end of WWII. Vespa manufacturer Piaggio had lost its aircraft factory to bombings during the war and decided to relaunch with scooters to fulfill the need for inexpensive transport. The first Vespa was sold in 1946 for 55,000 Italian lire (roughly a few hundred dollars) and the little motorbike had a steel body and 98 cc engine.

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu on Unsplash

Seventy-five years later, Piaggo is offering the Vespa as a special anniversary edition exclusively for model year 2021. It sports 40s-style yellow-gold paint, chrome-plated luggage rack, and vintage steel Vespa plate. It even includes a jaunty silk scarf so you can pretend to zip around the narrow streets of Rome.

For the anniversary edition, a three-valve four-stroke single-cylinder Primavera 50 (49.9 cc) retails at just under $4,500 and the 150 (155 cc) sells at closer to $6,000. At the top of the line, the four-valve four-stroke GTS 300 will set you back nearly $8,000. Versions of the Vespa with 125 cc motors fall somewhere between each of those models.     

Millions have been built (19 million so far) and shipped around the world, but Vespa and Rome go together for me. If you’ve ever visited the city, it retains its romantic cobblestone streets, gelato parlors, and plazas filled with artists. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and if you go, the locals speak in rapid-fire Italian that sounds like music. 

Vespa adds to the harmony of Italy, manufactured in the same Pontedera plant in Tuscany as it has from the beginning. Parent company Piaggio acquired another well-known Italian brand, Moto Guzzi, in 2014.

Each state has different laws for mopeds and scooters. According to AAA, driving a moped in Idaho requires a driver’s license, but a motorcycle license is not required. In California, if your moped or scooter doesn’t go faster than 20 miles per hour, you don’t even need a Class M2 license for motorized vehicles. I just got my M1 designation in 2019, so I can ride anywhere (yahoo!).

Ciao, bella (taxi drivers in Italy really do say that). Let's ride. 

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