Story of Vespa

transport
Red Vespa on the streets of Rome

Vespa is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by Piaggio. The name means wasp in Italian.

Post World War II Italy, in light of its agreement to cessation of war activities with the Allies, had its aircraft industry severely restricted in both capability and capacity. Italy's crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets.

Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio's founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.

Piaggio filed a patent for the Vespa scooter design in April 1946, more than 70 years ago. The application documents referred to a "model of a practical nature" for a "motorcycle with rationally placed parts and elements with a frame combining with mudguards and engine-cowling covering all working parts", of which "the whole constitutes a rational, comfortable motorcycle offering protection from mud and dust without jeopardizing requirements of appearance and elegance". The patent was approved the following December.

The biggest sales promo ever was Hollywood. In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck's Vespa in the feature film Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome, resulting in over 100,000 sales. In 1956, John Wayne dismounted his horse in favor of the two-wheeler to originally get between takes on sets as well as Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and the entertainer Abbe Lane had become Vespa owners. William Wyler filmed Ben Hur in Rome in 1959, allowing Charlton Heston to abandon horse and chariot between takes to take a spin on the Vespa.

Today, many urban commuters have purchased new or restored Vespas. A shortage of available parking for automobiles in large urban areas and the Vespa's low running costs are two reasons for the increase in Vespa popularity.