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‘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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TRANSPORT

‘Black Friday’ strike: Italian cities brace for transport chaos this week

Here are the Italian cities affected by Friday's transport strike - and why Rome will be hit hardest.

'Black Friday' strike: Italian cities brace for transport chaos this week
Passengers cramming onto a bus in Rome's Piazza Venezia during a previous strike. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The national strike on Friday 25th October will affect flights to and from Italy as well as public transport, including buses, trains, ferries and motorways, in and around the cties of Milan, Turin, Florence, Rome, Naples, Palermo and Catania.

READ ALSO: What are my rights if a flight is cancelled or delayed?

Italian airline Alitalia said it has cancelled some 200 flights on Friday, and other airlines expected to hit by delays or cancellations include Ryanair and Easyjet.

The national strike action has been called by trade unions protesting over pay and working conditions.

Rome is set to be hit hardest as general strike action is also planned by public and private sector employees, including by waste management company AMA, on Friday, at the same time as the general transport strike.

Unions told local media they were protesting the way public services were being run in the capital.

“It is a strike for Rome, where citizens have poor services and workers work in humiliating conditions. Enough with the degradation of this city,” a representative of the CGIL union told La Repubblica.

Amid the ongoing rubbish crisis in Rome, residents are now being urged by Ama not to throw out their trash on Friday during the strike, but to instead wait until Saturday, when Ama says collection services will resume.

The exact timing of the 24-hour strikes will vary, and some services on Thursday evening may also be affected.

Planned strike action:

  • Airlines: from 00.01 to 24.00 on the 25th.
  • Trains: rail strike from 9pm on October 24th to 9pm on the 25th.
  • Ferries: throughout Friday 25 October.
  • Motorways: strike from 22.00 on the 24th to 22.00 on the 25th.
Anyone travelling in, or flying to or from, Italy on Friday should contact their airline, train operator, or local public transport authority to confirm their service will be running.
 
It's not yet clear how Italy's network of toll motorways will be affected by the strike action. During similar previous strikes, traffic has been filtered through self-service toll booths, causing queues and delays during busy periods.

Transport strikes in Italy are scheduled in advance, and you can find information about planned disruptions (in Italian only) on the Transport Ministry's website.

Useful vocabulary

lo sciopero – strike

cancellato or annullato – cancelled

ritardato or in ritardo – delayed

il rimborso – refund

cambiare la prenotazione – to rebook

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