In Italy they’re called by the more elegant and somehow far cuter name Motorino. A cornerstone of mediterranean culture, especially in urban centres, motorini are still the simplest and easiest way to navigate a city. The various iterations of Piaggio’s famous Vespa from the 1950s onwards are indisputable vehicle design classics, and even after days and days in the south of Italy I still found myself staring like a man transfixed when an old white vespa whizzed past me.
There’s something about the simplicity of a motorino that’s irresistible: it’s a culture entirely different from that of the motocicletta or motorcycle, which involves shifting gears and straddling the bike like a horse; on a motorino you sit like you’re having dinner, with only a simplified spedometer and a couple of lights on your display. People from 14 to 85 drive them here, and hopping on a scooter is about as natural as going for a walk.
A couple of years ago, Piaggio introduced a new line of their famous Vespa scooters that, while not exactly re-creating the perfect heavy lines of the old Vespa frontpiece (for those you need the just-cancelled Vespa PX), comes pretty close. It’s a happily backwards-looking design similar to Fiat new’s cinquecento, the closest a lot of people will get to ever owning one of Fiat’s old masterpieces of a car.
Vespa Canada (yeah, we do drive some vespas in Canada, even if they’re prohibitively expensive and our scooter season outside of Vancouver is far too short) recently commissioned some great print ads that simultaneously introudced the new Vespa and harkened the arrival of spring. The theme is butterflies, close enough to the original meaning of the word Vespa (which would be wasp) and a little more appealing than that annoying insect when we’re talking about heralding in a new season.
The thematic unity of the butterfly/scooter concept left the designers free to incorporate elements of different design eras into each particular ad, with splendid results all around. I especially love the 1970s-themed design with its concentric lines and perfect colour scheme. Beautiful stuff.
Our final scooter-related find is this set of stunning high-end helmets from the Parisian designer Les Ateliers Ruby, which top any helmet I have ever seen anyone wearing anywhere. They’re lush, shiny, and thematically perfect for anyone buying a scooter for more than just a convenient method of transport.
I once saw a dude on a vintage vespa in Paris, sporting white converse, good jeans, a perfect vintage button-up shirt, and smoking a Gauluoises–which wasn’t hanging out of his mouth, mind you, but resting there in that inimitable ‘this took me 3 seconds to do but would take you a damn lifetime‘ French style. If he’d had this helmet, we would have our winner in the coolest man ever to ride a scooter. He’s probably already got one, the bastard.