The Motorino (moped)!
The motorino is an iconic symbol that many people across the globe associate with Italy. The image of a person riding a red Vespa through a beautiful Italian town, often featured in movies, is not too far from reality. Mopeds are a handy alternative to cars, as young people can get around by themselves without needing to spend a fortune. They are featured in many depictions of Italian life, as they are immensely popular and are an integral part of Italian culture. In this blog, we’ll delve further into the history of motorinos and why they are so widely used as a form of transport in Italy.
The motorino first came about during the aftermath of the Second World War, at a time when money was tight. Enrico Piaggio wanted to create a mode of transport that was accessible to everyone, as cars were far too expensive for the masses at the time. So, in 1947 the invention of the Vespa took Italy by storm and their popularity hasn’t faltered since. Corradino D’Ascanio, an aeronautical designer, was asked to design the Vespa, which he took very seriously, as he did not like the design of motorbikes. To allow an easier tire change, a supporting arm was added, instead of the traditional fork. To combat the driver getting dirty, D’Ascanio designed the body to protect the driver. The gear lever was put on the handlebar to make it easier to drive. These changes in design made the Vespa safer and more comfortable to drive than previous motorbikes.
By 1948, 19,822 Vespas had been put on the market, illustrating their immense popularity with Italian people. Piaggio’s success transcended Italy's borders and reached as far as Brazil and even Iran. They were produced in 13 different countries and were marketed in 114. In June 1956, the one millionth Vespa was manufactured and by 1988, they had reached 10 million.
Despite their roots in the post-war turmoil in Europe, motorinos have continually been a highly popular mode of transport all over Italy and, indeed, the world. In the Val di Comino (where the Cafolla family are from), it is essential for young people to be able to get around easily and without needing their parents to bring them. They are a handy way of travelling between villages and getting around to see friends or even just to go for a spin. Public transport in the area is somewhat lacking, for this reason many parents opt to buy motorinos for their children. During the summer, there are festas (night festivals,) swimming pools and weekly markets that people can get to by bike. The relative ease with which one can get a license to drive a motorino is fully taken advantage of by the people of the Val di Comino region.
Vespas are, of course, also very popular among Italian city dwellers. In Naples, the streets are filled with scooters of all kinds, as well as all kinds of drivers. Children, the elderly and sometimes entire families can be seen zooming through the busy streets. It is quite a hectic experience to drive, or even walk, in Naples. You would struggle to go 10 seconds without being beeped at by a Vespa carrying several children. Most people in Naples are able to drive a Vespa, and many are masters of maneuvering through people and cars. The city is full of unique and wonderful things, one of which is the almost comical number of motorinos.
In Italy, driving a scooter is almost like a rite of passage. Their popularity, both in the countryside and in cities, can be seen through the staggering number of Vespas produced throughout the years. They are an affordable and simple way for anyone to get around, without having to invest in a car. The sunny Italian weather suits this type of transport, though I’m not sure the same can be said for us in Ireland!
So many iconic movies show the convenience and enjoyment of riding a Vespa, such as Roman Holiday, in which Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck can be seen driving through the streets of Rome on a green Vespa. The scooter used in the movie sold for a quarter of a million dollars in 2017. Piaggio's iconic design can be recognised around the world and Vespas are ridden by people everywhere. Their invention was a transport phenomenon, which spread to countries across the globe and are an integral part of Italian culture.