By Nancy De Santi
This summer, nine Vespisti of the Vespa Committee of Washington, DC, led by AMHS member Willy Meaux, set off on an epic two-week Vespa ride from Rome to a first Vespa rally in Sulmona in the province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo.
The trip, which began June 30, 2022, then took the riders through Umbria to Spoleto and Perugia, on to Tuscany via Montalcino, Siena and Florence. Then the riders went to the Liguria area to Lerici, the Golfo dei Poeti and the first borgo of the Cinque Terre, and Carrara, followed by a second Vespa rally in Sarzana. The final stop of the journey was to Pontedera, to see the Museo Piaggio which presents the history of the Vespa from its beginning in 1946 to today.
The highlights of the trip were the incredible Raduno of the Vespa Club of Sulmona including a beautiful ride to Scanno, a city with a great lake high in the mountains, and Pacentro, a historic city with a castle and fantastic views of the Peligna Valley. Next up was an incredible ride through Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo with a very challenging but thrilling route filled with hours of 180 degree turns down steep, narrow roads along the cliffs of the highest peaks of the Apennine Mountains.
The riders then enjoyed the beautiful cities of Spoletto, and Perugia, a monastery stay in Pienza, two incredible days in Florence hosted by the Vespa Club of Florence, the beautiful port areas of Lerici, Sarzana and the Golfo dei Poeti, and a taste of Cinque Terre. Then it was on to the marble caves of Carrara, the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, a night in the Castello Fosdinovo, and a beautiful evening again on the Mediterranean in Orbetello before returning to Rome. It all added up to 2,000 kilometers on the Vespas and the most wonderful gastronomic experiences along the way.
AMHS members may recall that Willy was our speaker at the Vespa Raduno at Casa Italiana on September 22, 2019. The event honored the Abruzzese inventor of the Vespa, Corradino D’Ascanio. The president of the Sulmona Vespa Club, Panfilo D’Angelo, was our special guest. (The Sulmona Vespa Club is a chapter of the Vespa Club of Italy).
Giving a little background on the Vespa (“wasp” in Italian), Willy noted that while slower than a car, a Vespa could easily navigate Italy’s ancient and narrow roadways. Introduced to the world in 1946 as Italy was emerging from World War II in ruins, it was inexpensive to own and operate, and its commercial success led to its iconic status as a symbol of Italian culture, design, style and la dolce vita. Whipping through the streets on this simple, elegant and robust piece of automotive engineering gave riders a sense of freedom. Like all Italian inventions, it was conceived with aesthetics in mind.
Willy noted that the Vespa Committee of Washington, DC Inc., of which he is a past president, has founded a new adventure travel program called “The Vespa Bridge to Italy.”
He said this summer adventure was truly a bucket list trip, and a documentary movie of the entire adventure is now in production, to be released in 2023. Proceeds from the Vespa Committee’s film will go to support future opportunities for film students to go to Italy to create films about that country, its rich culture and these Vespa journeys. Willy said the Vespa Committee is very proud to have supported three collegiate film students in this first film project. Says Willy: “Get ready to binge when the film is released as we will also include the incredible Italian cuisine we discovered along the journey that was unique to each region.”
Stay tuned for news about the upcoming documentary as well for news about The Vespa Bridge to Italy 2023. You can learn more about the foundation at www.vespacommittee.org.