When in Rome – scooting around the eternal city | FEATURE
Scooter tourism is a booming business, you can do a scooter tour in lots of popular cities, Spanish Islands and the like. Plus you can hire one pretty much everywhere you go abroad, In Majorca, you can hire Lambrettas (or Scomadis), and as this SLUK reader found out you can also tour Rome by Vespa. If you’ve got a favourite destination with a scooter-related theme let us know.
Is there a better way to see the sights of the capital city of the country that is the spiritual home of the motor scooter, than by riding a Vespa around it? I expect half of you are saying ‘Yes on a Lambretta would be better’, but I think you all get my gist.
Sadly for the traditional scooter riders among us, classic metal-bodied manual scooters are a very small percentage of the traffic on the streets of Rome, so if you follow the saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do” they mostly all just twist and go.
A week-long Italian holiday squeezed in-between a busy UK scooter rally schedule was my plan, taking in some culture and hopefully spot as many scooters as possible, Alas, I didn’t see one single Lambretta anywhere on the whole trip. It was obvious from the off that large wheel maxi scooters are kings of the road out there.
The parking bay for two-wheelers near my hotel had seven machines parked in it, made up of a Suzuki 650, Honda 300, Yamaha 530, BMW 650, Kawasaki 300, Honda 750 and an Aprilia 850. Not motorcycles as the names and engine sizes would suggest, but all maxi scooters, bearing little or no resemblance to the classic scooters I’ve worshipped for years, but these modern scooters have evolved with time and will cope with fast-moving traffic far better than any of our beloved geared classics.
One street near The Colloseum had a bay with ten modern scooters parked up, and all of them from a different manufacturer, Derbi, Peugeot, Sachs, Honda, Benelli, Aeon, Kymco, Gilera, Suzuki, and a Hyosung. I had no idea there was so many brands. I imagine three decades ago or more the only scooters parked up or flying about in Italy would be the ones we truly accept on the British scooter rallies of today. Maybe I came to this city sightseeing and scooter spotting many many years too late?
A trip to the Vespa museum of Rome redressed the balance for a while, free entry too. A Lovely 50-year-old white Primmy stood outside, just a taster for what’s on show in the museum’s basement setting. The gallery photo’s show what’s in there. It was also very reassuring to see the good word of Scooterlab.UK has reached the sticker display cabinet (bloody Shaun Hodgkin’s sticker bombing work I would guess).
My trusty steed hire scooter for the holiday was a virtually brand new 150cc 4-stroke Vespa Primavera. It ran silky smooth, coping with Italian traffic easily. I regularly saw 100kph or 62mph on the clock, not sure of the speedos accuracy but its 12-inch wheels dealt with Rome’s cobbled roads far better than I imagine a 10-inch tubed wheel would have done. Gliding along as if I were on a magic carpet.
I lost my way a few times cruising around, but The Colosseum, the Vatican and Trevi Fountain were all real eye-opening places to see. I managed to find the very spot were Julius Caesar was brutally murdered, and topped it all off by doing a few laps of the outer road overlooking the oval Circus Maximus, where up to a quarter of a million people would sit and cheer on chariot racing in about 70 AD.
Piaggio’s Liberty 125cc and Beverly 350cc seem to be the most popular scooters on the roads in Rome, But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Kymco brand doesn’t steal that crown sometime soon, shocking really beating the Italians in their own country.
On the final day of my trip I was stopped twice in two hours, once near The Colosseum by the Police in an electric BMW patrol car for my haphazard riding, and then at a military roadblock. The roadblock was there to combat the threat of terror, an issue that sadly worries every major city in the world. Being asked to show your passport prevents you from giving a false name, but then “Hey ho, once a scooterboy always a scooterboy”, is worth a try.
I hope to visit Rome again sometime soon. If only the hire scoot had a 30mm carb and an expansion pipe it would be the perfect holiday. Of course, the hardcore amongst you will be saying ‘ride your own scooter there on a euro rally’ sadly it looks like the Italian city of Genoa will be banning older scooters soon and like many cities around the world, Rome won’t be far behind them so do it whilst you still can.
Words and photos: Mike Miner
Where to hire a scooter from
All have different prices and packages and proof of your scooter riding competency may be asked for. If you find yourself in Rome it would be a shame not to ride a scooter there though. My recommendation would be to use Bici & Baci “Bikes and Kisses” in Engish. Their shop was a stone’s throw from The Colosseum and easily found on the internet. When you’ve found them you’ve also found the Vespa museum because it’s in the basement of their shop. Very helpful and friendly people.
The Vespa sidecar tours people overtook me riding along on an Italian tricolour of sidecar bedecked GTS 300s, a green one, a white one and a red one in what looked like a modern take of the Italian Job movie.
When in Rome gallery
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