Ultimate Motorcycling

Vespa: Style and Passion Book Review [Rider’s Library]

In the world of scooters, there is one name that reigns supreme—Vespa.

The title of the new book about Vespa by Valerio Boni and Stefano Cordara says it best: “Style and Passion.” Add to that the term “durability,” since the book is in celebration of the brand’s 75th anniversary. Indeed, the book is the official history of the brand released by Motorbooks in September, 2020.

Manufacturer, Piaggio, introduced the novel concept in economical transportation in 1946 with their debut model 98. That is where the story of the legendary scooter begins, but not where the Piaggio story started.

The book includes the very beginnings of the Piaggio enterprise, which goes all the way back to 1884, when young entrepreneur, Rinaldo Piaggio launched the Rinaldo Piaggio Company. In those days, his company manufactured furniture for use on ships.

By World War I, the company had diversified into building trains and aircraft. In 1926, Piaggio founded Italy’s first airline. In the pre-WWII years, Piaggio poured resources into research and development and it paid off in advanced technology products; among them the P23R tri-engine bomber that flew to two world speed records and the seven-cylinder radial aircraft engine.

In the 1940s, Rinaldo’s son, Enrico Piaggio was in a leadership role in the company and began the pivot from aircraft and other heavy industries to affordable consumer transportation, and the scooter concept we know today was born. The long-term success of that strategy is easy to see in the fact that Piaggio went on to acquire Italian brands Aprilia, Gilera, Moto Guzzi, and the Spanish firm, Derbi.

Divided into only three chapters, it covers details of the company’s history in chapter one, covers the birth, development, and marketing of the Vespa scooter and its range of models over the years in chapter two and in chapter three explores the Vespa style from the movies (it played a starring role in the 1952 feature film Roman Holiday that starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn), to globe-trotting adventure riders (Soren Nielsen rode his Vespa to the Arctic Circle), surprisingly hot racing models, record-setting machines (in 1951 a Vespa streamliner set a world record for a 125cc machine in the flying start kilometer at 106.317 mph) and even amazing customs.

The 250 images, technical detail, and historical depth in the book make it an instant classic and collector’s item, whether you’re a Vespa owner, a fan of the brand, a scooter fan, or just interested in a great read.

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