SHOW NOTES: There have been a ton of books written about Italian scooters maybe because they are, at the same time, both practical and nostalgic. The Piaggio company was founded in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio just outside of Genoa, Italy. The company started as a woodworking shop, making interiors for ships, but branched out by the turn of the century in to building rail carriage cars and engines. They entered the airplane business shortly before WWI and by 1923, were making some of the best planes built in Europe. As you might expect, WWII was devastating to Italy as well as the Piaggio company. As a weapons maker, the factories were prime targets for the allies and were bombed heavily towards the end of the war. In addition, as the Germans retreated from areas they occupied in Italy, like Pontedera, they either blew-up or heavily mind the Piaggio factories.
Enrico Piaggio challenged an engineer named Corradino D’Ascanio to come up with a vehicle that would be comfortable, easy to ride and with an engine that could not be seen from the outside. He was not a motorcycle fan and was motivated to come up with something different. Solutions came from the companies extensive background in aeronautics and borrowed both from the designs and the technical aspects of airplanes. As a result, the scooter’s front suspension was a single fork design, similar to what was used in landing gear. They used a load-bearing sheet metal design instead of a frame and a horizontal single cylinder engine that would pivot on the frame, eliminating the need for a swing arm. The same basic design factors, although modified, continues to exist today in the modern Vespas produced today.
If I was disappointed, and I should say I wasn’t disappointed in much, I know that the museum is showing just a fraction of it’s collection. Also, since the collection focuses on the Italian market, it means that many of the variations we have come to know and love are no where to be seen. I am not even sure how much time we spent at the museum,(it was hours) but it proved to be both a pleasure and an education for me and surprisingly for Marcel, who endured the whole time without a cappuccino break. For more information on how to contact the Piaggio Museum or how to get there check here for directions.
Other Piaggio and Vespa References
- Vespa: 1946-2006: 60 Years of the Vespa by Giorgio Sarti and Roberto Colaninno
- Vespa by Davide Mazzanti
- Scooters: Red Eyes, Whitewalls and Blue Smoke by Colin Shattuck
- Classic Scooters: 1945-1970 by Mick Walker
- Vespa by Valerio Boni
- Vespa: An Illustrated History by Eric Brockway
- Vespa : From Italy with Love by Giorgio Sarti