Italy: The Vespa and the Movies

Italian Vespa Exhibition

"The Vespa and the Movies" exhibition was officially opened at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera Italy. A major initiative of the Piaggio Foundation organized jointly with the Cinema Multimedia Center and Viareggio Europa Cinema, the exhibition celebrates the links between the cinema – the dream factory – and the world’s most famous scooter.

The opening ceremony, where guests included actors Alessandro Gassman and Ugo Dighero, was addressed by the Mayor of Pontedera Italy, Simone Millozzi, the President of the Province of Pisa Italy, Andrea Pieroni, and, for the Piaggio Group, Michele Pallottini, chief operating officer for finance, and Francesco Delzio, director of external and institutional relations.

"Today, after more than sixty years, the Vespa is the worldwide symbol of Italian creativity and a unique example of immortality in the history of industrial design," writes Piaggio Group Chairman and CEO Roberto Colaninno in the introduction to the exhibition catalog.

"The Vespa is no longer just a product of the world of transport: it is the story of a phenomenon-symbol of global mores, and the images exhibited at the Piaggio Museum offer a fascinating journey through films, advertisements, photographs and posters, in the company of a legend without equals."

Entry to the exhibition in the Piaggio Museum is free. It will be open to the public until January 15 2011, re-tracing the origins and development of the Vespa-Cinema binomial through a huge selection of material – presented for viewing on multimedia stations – and a collection of more than 150 posters of cult movies starring the Vespa.

An assortment of styles, colors and moods synthesized and enhanced by the splendid exhibition poster, designed by painter and sculptor Ugo Nespolo.

The more than two hundred images in the exhibition catalog, many of them previously unpublished, are included in the documentation. The catalog also presents critical essays by Tommaso Fanfani, President of the Piaggio Foundation, Pier Marco De Santi and Andrea Mancini (the exhibition curators), Elena Colombini, Veronica Boggian and Daniele Michelucci.

It closes with a filmography documenting the Vespa’s appearances in the movies, often in a leading role and never in a simple walk-on part.

While the exhibition is open, the Piaggio Museum will be turned into a movie theater, with weekly projections of some of the most important films in which the Vespa appears. A total of ten evenings will be held, attended by actors and entertainers. The first evening is Saturday November 13 at 9 p.m., when the Hungarian film "Vespa" will be shown.

The Vespa made its movie debut in 1950, four years after its market launch, in the Italian film "Sunday in August", and became a worldwide status symbol in "Roman Holiday" (1953), with the celebrated sequence when Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck weave their way through the Rome traffic on a Vespa 125.

In addition to movie posters and stills from countless films, the exhibition opened today at the Piaggio Museum also exhibits the Vespa models that played leading roles in the films, covering sixty years of history, styles and a changing way of life.

During that time, countless actors and actresses sat on the Vespa, which appeared, or even took a leading role, in countless films – comedies, dramas, action movies, social comment: "Examples include Nanni Moretti’s ‘Dear Diary’ (1993), where the main character spends an entire episode – entitled, naturally enough, ‘In Vespa’ – on the saddle of a 150 Sprint," says the exhibition curator Pier Marco De Santi, "or ‘Alfie’ (2004), directed by Charles Shyer, which sees Jude Law out on the streets of Manhattan on a white and blue Vespa; or Sydney Pollack’s ‘The Interpreter’ (2005), where Nicole Kidman’s favoured means of transport around New York is a yellow Vespa."

The photographs in the exhibition "The Vespa and the Movies" illustrate the long list of international movie stars seen on the world’s most famous scooter over the years, in films ranging from "Quadrophenia" to "Absolute Beginners", "American Graffiti", "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "102 Dalmatians" and the blockbuster "Transformers".

In the films and on the sets, the Vespa was the "traveling companion" of stars like Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress, Geraldine Chaplin, Joan Collins, Jayne Mansfield, Virna Lisi, Milla Jovovich, Marcello Mastroianni, Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, Anthony Perkins, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Nanni Moretti, Sting, Antonio Banderas, Matt Damon, Gérard Depardieu, Jude Law, Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Nicole Kidman and many others.