The world famous scooter , Vespa is so much part of Italian national image that no stock photo or postcard can be found without at least one of them parking/circulating/taking on board a complete family. Everyone loves vespa. But how was this epic vehicle born?
The company producing Vespa, Piaggio was founded back in 1884 in Sestri Ponente, Liguria by the 20 year old Rinaldo Piaggio. Rinaldo, after spending two years on ships, decided to increase the activity of his father’s sawmill and started making cabinets for ships. And success came around fast, in 1889 most of the interior fittings of the ships produced in the Ligurian ports were signed by Piaggio. By 1906 the factory of Sestri Ponente has not enough space for the company anymore and they move to Final Marina where the activity is spread also to railway carriages.
By 1916 Piaggio is a leader in both of the market of ship interiors as well as in the productio of railway carriages. Therefore i 1917 Piaggio purchases an aeronautical factory in Pisa, Tuscany where one of Italy’s first airports was found. In 1924 the most important expansion arrives and Piaggio is moving to Pontedera, a tiny city near Pisa and starts the production of aircraft engines, propellers and aeroplanes. This changes the sleepy rural town of Pontedera to an industrial reality, a real Company Town. Success continues and the company survives the great world crisis. Rinaldo dies in 1938 and leave sthe company to his two sons.
World War II destroys the Tuscan plants and Enrico Piaggio decides to dramatically change the actvities of the sites since the aeronautical industry requires huge capital, manpower and expensive materials. This is how the firts scooter the MP5 or Paperino is born.
Enrico was sure that the introduction of this light two-wheeled vehicle would help the post war transports back to normality. The patents is registered on 23 April 1946 in Florence. Now, after 70 years of production it sold more than 140 different models and more that 20 million scooters. the Ape three-wheeler, also made by Piaggio is another vehicle that helped to power Italy’s economical reconstruction when Italians could not afford proper four-wheelers for load carrying .
In 1969 Piaggio acquires Gilera, the famous motorcycle manufacturer and in 2004 Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.
Vespa is fashionable since then and even in recent years, many urban commuters have purchased new or restored Vespas as there are not so many other things representing “being Italian” as much as going to work by Vespa does. Everybody loves it.
If you are in Pisa and would like to know more about the brand, just hop on a train to Pontedera to the Piaggio Museum (free entry!) and will see a bunch of models in exhibition.