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Even when not in Rome, do as the Romans do.

February 23, 2010

There are three things you see a lot of when you’re in Rome:

They're simple.

  • Ancient ruins
  • Postcards of the pope
  • Motor scooters

On this, my second of a five-day visit to Rome, I’m going to focus on the last item. Here, the scooters come in many shapes and sizes, outfitted with all sorts of accessories, from windshields and sideview mirrors to paint detail and radios. And they have all sorts of riders, from teenagers and university students to business women and octegenarians.

For this reason—and because Audrey Hepburn rode one—motor scooters have become for Americans a quintessential symbol of Italy. Indeed, for many of us, “Vespa” (along with “pizza,” “spaghetti,” and “Ferarri”) is one of the few Italian terms we are capable of spitting out. However, unlike Italians who view them as a viable form of transportation, we see them as quite charming, somewhat amusing, and generally useless.

This view is understandable given the sprawling landscapes and various intemperate climates in our country. However, there are a lot of us who might benefit from the fuel-efficiency (We’re talking

They're functional.

144 MPGs for the top performers.) and handy storage of these vehicles.

Particularly, if you live in a city, a motor scooter might be your ticket to a more efficient, less stressful life. Imagine being able to park in the annoying half a spot someone left. Imagine decreasing your carbon footprint by more than 300 percent. Imagine paying to fill your tank with one bill of small denomination.

Sure, there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to motor scooters in the U.S., but more and more, they’re becoming quite fashionable for their simplicity, their convenience, and their Euro-style. The key, I think, is to not be ashamed of your lesser horse power, but instead to embrace the scooter culture and all that comes with it. Get yourself a colorful helmet, don some riding gloves, and wave to Hummer drivers as you squeeze past them in traffic. You can even join an online scooter community.

Whatever you do, sit up tall and proud on your scooter seat. The Romans do.

They're cute.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. pawl permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:33 am

    I always figured I’d be a scooter guy, but I think the anarchist in me enjoys the freedom and ease that biking allows for not following traffic laws. Not that I’m a hellion, I just don’t always wait for green if you know what I mean.
    Accordingly, I feel like I can still out perform a scooter in an urban setting.
    However, showing up at an event not all sweaty does have its appeal.

  2. avaerewyck permalink
    March 1, 2010 3:49 pm

    I know exactly what you mean about the green, Pawl. In fact, cyclists’ hellion tendencies might be the subject of a future NCG post. I too have little patience for red lights (especially when waiting for one just means you’ll remain in a danger cluster of cars), but I hear drivers talk a lot about reckless bicyclists can be and how if they want fair treatment on the road they should follow the rules of the road. A friend of mine posited that this perception of cyclists could be damaging to the car-free movement (not to mention that the behavior could be damaging to car-free heads – ahem).

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