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DESIGN

Italy’s iconic Vespa goes electric

The Vespa, an iconic 70-year-old design classic and Italy's most famous scooter, will be available in an electric version by the end of next year, according to its manufacturer, Piaggio.

Italy's iconic Vespa goes electric
A Vespa Elettrica on show in Milan. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

A prototype of the greener two-wheeler will be unveiled this weekend at the Milan bike show.

For now, there's nothing under the engine housing and scooter-maker Piaggio has revealed no details about the motor of the Vespa Elettrica nor about its price.

The new model retains the wasp-like shape that lent the scooter its name, but a blue trim distinguishes it from its gasoline-fuelled versions, which retail in Italy for between 3,500 and 5,500 euros ($3,800 to $6,000).

IN PICTURES: The history of the Vespa

“It will be a real Vespa,” Piaggio said in news release. “The style, agility, ease of use and driving pleasure will be the same.”

Some 18 million Vespas have been sold over the past seven decades, according to Piaggio.

The scooter became an international symbol of the “dolce vita” with the 1953 film “Roman Holiday” in which Gregory Peck pursued Audrey Hepburn on one.

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TRANSPORT

‘Symbol of youth’: Italy’s iconic Vespa scooter marks 75th birthday

Ever since Audrey Hepburn took control of her Vespa in the 1953 classic "Roman Holiday", the Italian scooter has been a symbol of joy and style and on its 75th birthday, many Italians remain fondly attached to theirs.

'Symbol of youth': Italy's iconic Vespa scooter marks 75th birthday
Vespa scooters are pictured on August 11, 2019 in Cervinia, Italian Alps. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

“I’ve had a Vespa for 12 years, I’m on my third,” said Marco Guerrieri, a Roman accountant in his 40s.

“I wanted a more original two-wheeler than the Japanese scooters, plus it’s made of metal and not plastic, it’s much more resistent,” he told AFP.

While it is mostly a practical mode of transportation for him, he laments that for many “it’s a status symbol – in my neighbourhood all the successful people have a Vespa”.

READ ALSO: The history behind Italy’s famous Vespa scooter

Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s adventures in Rome made the Vespa famous in the 1950s, but its history dates back to April 23, 1946, when the first patent for its manufacture was registered in Italy.

Legend has it that the name, which means “wasp” in Italian, came from Enrico Piaggio, founder of the eponymous motor company, who compared the noise
of its engine to the insect’s buzz.

File photo: Alberto Lingri/AFP

Seventy-five years and 19 million units later, Vespas have lost none of their charm, despite the problems of driving them in Rome, with their small wheels unsuited to potholes and slippery cobblestones.

“These are 19 million stories of guys and girls, entire generations who dreamed of and gained their freedom astride a Vespa,” enthused a statement from Piaggio marking Friday’s anniversary.

Since 1946, the Vespa has been made at Pontedera, in Tuscany, although in recent years also in a factory in India and another in Vietnam.

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