Maybe it is the Italian in me, or that the image of a vintage Vespa makes me dream a bygone era when cool Italians with wearing suits and ties, rode care-free through the streets of Rome with a cute girl on the back. Persol sunglasses, the Coliseum, espresso, the beep-beep of a Fiat horn, I want to be THAT guy. The cool Italian with the girl, and the scooter. Just a dream…..or can one really make this happen today? Yes. Yes you can, I did. All you need to do is call Scooteroma.
I found Scooteroma on the internet during my research for my trip to Italy. Being the Gearhead that I am, I always look for classic car events, museums, and vintage collections to visit when I travel. Somehow I found the Scooteroma website, and I knew I MUST ride a Vespa when I got to Rome. Scooteroma is operated by a husband and wife team. Annie is an American from the North Midwest, and her husband Giovanni is native Italian. They are both very cool, and part of the Vespa culture of Rome, or Vespisti. They offer guided tours of Rome, either as a passenger or self driven. Chauffer driven Vintage Vespas are available as well. I was warned by numerous people in the US not to attempt to drive in Rome, because the traffic is crazy, the Italian drivers are crazy, and that I would surely perish. Great! Let’s double-down! Let’s do Rome on a scooter! I hopped on and told my girl to hang on tight. No, tighter. Ok. Andiamo! When in Rome…..
To the casual observer, the streets of Rome do look chaotic. But it somehow works. The sea of cars, scooters, trucks, motorcycles, and pedestrians weaving in and out of each other are all part of a motorized eco-system. Each element is on a quest for survival, but exists harmoniously. I never felt afraid or in danger. Stop lights are mostly obeyed, but stop signs and the lines painted on the streets are “just a suggestion”. The key is to drive aggressively, not angry. When someone does something the other driver dislikes, they stop and have a conversation about it. They raise their voices, arms waiving around like an out of balance windmill, and then part as friends. It is the Italian way. A big blow up, then, ten seconds later, all is forgotten. Ciao. Time to go.
Giovanni skillfully guided us through the Roman traffic and showed us some really fantastic sites. We were able to see interesting, unusual off the tourist-trap radar places that I will always remember. For instance, a small mountain (around 115 feet tall) named Monte Testaccio, that looked normal, until he explained it was made completely out of broken amphora shipping containers dumped there in ancient times. “They used to throw them into them river, but the water became too shallow for boats to pass, so they dumped them here”. On close inspection you can see the fragments. Very cool. Whizzing through Rome on a Vespa allowed me see the Eternal City from a completely different perspective, more like a local sees the city, not the average tourist. We covered a large area of Rome in a short amount of time in style, and I loved every minute of it. I lived the dream. La Dolce Vita baby.