Italy without Vespas – unimaginable. This was probably also the opinion of director William Wyler when he staged the Hollywood hit “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck around 70 years ago. In 1953 at least the two actors were the first in a long line of world-famous actors and actresses to be filmed on the saddle of the never-aging top star. The oldest Vespa in the world, a hand-built scooter that was featured in the Audrey Hepburn film, is the scooter with chassis number 1003, which was the third Vespa ever made by Italian manufacturer Piaggio (which specialized in aircraft engines at the time). The Piaggio scooter was from the so-called “0 series”, which consisted of 60 prototypes. The first two prototypes no longer exist. – For quite understandable reasons, the romantic comedy was like an advertising movie for the Piaggio company, which sold around 100,000 vehicles in the year 1953. A real box office hit, which quickly helped the “moped” to cult status. Since then, Vespas have fascinated their fans in hundreds of movies.
Moving images for moving two-wheelers
From “American Graffiti” to “Quadrophenia“, from “102 Dalmatians” to “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and all the way to “Alfie” with Nicole Kidman and the blockbuster series “Transformers” (the fifth film in the saga, directed by Michael Bay, was released in 2017 and once again featured a Vespa scooter in a leading role). Across genres the Vespa also appears in more recent movies, whether in action, romance or thrillers like “The American” with George Clooney. Also in crime comedies like “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Guy Ritchie or simply funny movies like “Zoolander 2” starring Ben Stiller and co-stars Owen Wilson and Penélope Cruz, a Vespa always shines.
Vespa as a symbol of freedom
Why of all things the Vespa has started its triumphal procession and not, for example, the “Schwalbe” manufactured in the GDR can perhaps also be taken from history:
The Vespa is a traditional motorized bicycle from Italy and has been in use since 1946. The inventor, Corradino D’Ascanio, designed it on behalf of Piaggio. The trick is that because the engine is covered, no one gets dirty while riding. His goal was to give as many people as possible freedom of movement, and this quickly met with approval in war-torn Italy. In the years that followed, the Vespa became a true icon of Italian culture. At this time, the Vespa became popular worldwide. In the 1960s the Vespa became one of the symbols of youth and rebellion against the establishment. Among other things, the numerous movies featuring the stylish vehicle were responsible for this. It was also a symbol of freedom, expressed through its fabulous design and beautiful, timeless shapes. Even today, the Vespa is a symbol of freedom. This is also the case in the world famous Vespa scene of the blockbuster “Zoolander 2”, where Penélope Cruz with Ben Stiller in the backseat rode together on a white Vespa Primavera.
Fun Fact: The Vespa didn’t drive itself at all. It was actually pulled by the car on which the camera was mounted.