Forget the Colosseum: When it comes to a symbol of Rome and la dolce vita, the Vespa's where it's at.
Like most Rome fantasies, this one doesn't always have a ton of bearing in reality. Yes, almost everyone here has a scooter. But no, it's not usually an adorable, sparkling, vintage Vespa. Those are expensive… and (haven't you heard?), there's an economic crisi here!
Still. I've had Vespas on my mind lately, thanks to a travel story I've been working on (more on that later!). And, whether the vehicles used by most of my friends could come out of a scene from Roman Holiday or not, whipping around Rome on a scooter—even a banged-up, anything-but-beautiful one—remains one of my favorite ways to get from Point A to Point B in the city. It's hands-down the most convenient. And, yes, it can be romantic.
In homage to seeing Rome by scooter, here are three movie clips to transport you.
Forgive me for the last one.
Ah, the face that launched a thousand dreams of Rome: Audrey Hepburn. In particular, Audrey Hepburn taking Gregory Peck's Vespa for a near-death experience adventure-filled spin. Although I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite scene from this movie—which is, of course, the 1953 Roman Holiday—this might just have to be it.
And if you're wondering, yes, Rome's traffic is every bit as crazy today as it looks like it was then.
What Roman Holiday did for tourists' imaginings of Vespas and Rome, Nanni Moretti's Caro Diario did for locals. The first 10 minutes of the movie follows the protagonist on his sojourn through Rome's streets—not its main, all-too-famous piazzas and avenues, but the places known to locals, like the pretty neighborhood of Garbatella. And, because it's ferragosto in Rome, the streets are completely deserted.
When I looked up movie clips showing Vespas in Rome on YouTube, this came up. And while I'm kind of really embarrassed to include it (I promise, not being a 12-year-old girl, this is not a movie I have ever seen), I thought that the scene, while clearly sickly-sweet (and inaccurate: what Roman would ever say "This is Rome. Nobody knows how to drive"?), does a cute job of showing the sights in Rome's centro storico. They start at Piazza Farnese (and no, in real life you can't drive a scooter there), then move on to Via Nazionale (0:15), Piazza del Popolo (0:19), Via Nazionale again at Trajan's markets (0:28), the Palace of Justice (0:35), Via Giulia (I think) (0:40), Piazza della Repubblica (1:02), Pantheon (also not allowed) (1:11), Spanish Steps (1:18, and they must have filmed this at sunrise for it to be so empty).
And no, that route makes no sense whatsoever. But pretty sights, right?
Also, I really hope Hilary Duff doesn't wind up with this Italian boy at the end of the film. Because picking-up-a-straniera-via-scooter, in more ways than one, would be the oldest trick in the book. (Oh Audrey, if you only knew what you'd started back in '53).