Postcards from Italy

Rome on Two Wheels: Vespa Tour

Along with the Colosseum and Leaning Tower, nothing is more iconic of Italy than the Vespa. This timeless scooter was created in 1946 by the Piaggio company to meet the demand for a modern, affordable mode of transportation for the country’s rapidly urbanizing post-war population. Since then, the Vespa has remained one of the most beloved vehicles of convenience in Italy, from retirees puttering to the market in banged up originals to urban hipsters buzzing about town in spotless faux-vintage models.

Nowhere is this more true than Rome. Due to the city’s heavy traffic, limited parking, and—let’s face it—theft problem, many Romans eschew a car and opt for a smaller and less expensive scooter to get to work, school, or simply out and about. Though there are certainly higher-end, full-optional scooters that almost edge into motorcycle territory, by far the scooter of choice is the plucky Vespa, and nothing delights more than spotting a candy-colored Vespa parked jauntily in a narrow Roman backstreet or against the backdrop of one of the city’s most famous sights.

If the Vespa is the Roman vehicle of choice, it follows that the ideal way to explore the Eternal City like a native is on the back of one of these classic “wasps”. We did just that on a recent tour that combined the fun novelty of zipping through the streets of Italy’s capital on two wheels with the undeniable pleasure of some of the city’s best street food. If you’d like to do the same, here are some of the basics:

What you see

Vespa tours last roughly four hours and set off at about 10 am or about 3 pm to avoid the height of rush hour. Itineraries generally include a number of famous sights and can be customized to include anything you really have your heart set on. That said, the best sights are those that are not easy to reach by public transportation, like the Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla, the Ancient Appian way, the Testaccio neighborhood and Pyramid, the Jewish Ghetto, and the Janiculum Hill or Orange Garden for spectacular views over the city.


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

What you eat


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Though even a basic Vespa tour includes a stop for espresso (if departing in the morning) or gelato (in the afternoon), we customized our tour to highlight Rome’s unique street food and combined some of the city sights with samples of gourmet pizza by the slice, supplì, wine, and gelato…finishing off with a bracing caffé, of course.


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Other great options would be to create a Vespa/market tour in the morning by incorporating a walk through the Testaccio or Trionfale markets to taste a bit of everything or a Vespa/deli tour in the afternoon to sample the best cheeses and charcuterie from local gourmet shops.

What to know before you go

If you’re panicking at the thought of maneuvering a Vespa through Rome’s notoriously aggressive traffic, don’t worry! You don’t drive the Vespa, but rather ride behind an expert local driver who points out sights along the way and opts for routes with the least congestion possible. You also won’t be zooming through the city at break-neck speed; drivers keep the pace mellow and the maximum speed below 35 mph.


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

A Vespa tour can be fun for the whole family, since there is no upper or lower age limit. That said, you must be at least 5′ tall to be a passenger; very tall or large adults need to give advance notice so they can be paired with lighter drivers on a bigger Vespa.

All drivers and passengers must wear a helmet by law (included in the tour), and you may want to throw on a light jacket in spring and fall as it can get cool in the open air. Also, pants and shoes that are not flip-flops are a good idea, but not required.

The Final Verdict


(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Nothing brings out childlike glee like the whimsical Vespa, and we loved exploring the city that we know so well in this unique and delightful way!

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore