From works of art and architecture, to products like olive oil and nutella, Italy’s strong cultural heritage means that it is full of things that are iconic and unequivocally Italian.
Although there are a few cars that fall under this category (Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo) my personal favorite is the Fiat.
Not just any Fiat of course, but the Fiat 500. From the 1950′s to 1970′s, the cinquecento (five hundred) was produced and marketed as a cheap practical town car.
At about ten feet long, it makes the mini cooper look like a full-size sedan – seriously – I saw one here the other day and thought “WOW, that is huge,” which surprised me seeing as how it was the “cute little car” that I wanted in college. But I digress.
The Italian brand of scooter, the iconic Vespa, is manufactured by Piaggio. The name means wasp in Italian. The Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio.
From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit.
Post World War II Italy, in light of its agreement to cessation of war activities with the Allies, had its aircraft industry severely restricted in both capability and capacity.
Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera fighter plane plant demolished by bombing. Italy’s crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio’s founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy’s urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.
A masterpiece was born!
An early Vespa poster above.
The UK is Vespa’s second largest market, see above.
For more on Vespa, see: