I steer slowly around the bend in the road and into a vision of rhododendrons with a fragrance reminiscent of Selfridges’ perfume hall. The route before me recedes into a blue haze. I clutch the brake lever on the handlebar, the whirring quietens and stops. All still, peaceful and calm. I’m face to face with nature’s outdoor wardrobe, flashes of coloured floral edging, woven with every shade of green and laced with transparent spaces into the fields beyond.
I’m scootering along country roads on my shiny deep pink Vespa which hijacks me on tours of the outdoors. It’s like riding through an artist’s landscape painting, trees entwining to form canopied tunnels, the sun’s rays casting dancing shadows on the ground and hills undulating the horizon.
As I ride along twisting lanes and sleepy side roads, I feel totally immersed in this moving canvas, bursting with shape, flushed with colour. The breeze stroking my face, the rustle in the hedgerows, floral scents and recently cut grass. I gaze with envy at dreamy cottages with thatched roofs so neatly and perfectly groomed they remind me of Claudia Winkleman’s fringe. Hamlets rich in plants, bursting with coloured displays easily qualifying for a best kept village award. Roadside tables selling sticks of rhubarb next to potted cuttings of chilli and mint. Bags of manure. No thanks. Views everchanging. A squirrel scuttles up a tree trunk, a pheasant darts across my path, a swan waltzes across a pond to the delight of spectators, while I come face to face with airborne creatures. A herd of cows rudely ignore me, too busy munching. I spot lunchtime specials chalked on pub boards – the Ploughman’s lunch very tempting. I smile as I count the endless scenes that could be captured and cropped as quintessentially English postcards.
Clad in gleaming chrome, my shiny two-wheeled scooter brings delight to children, as if a toy has come to life. Fellow motorcyclists nod and smile. Horses commandeer the road, clipperty clopperty at slow speed. I overtake mucky tractors but shy away from competing with the cruising Harleys and faster sports bikes. Devoid of traffic, this form of travel is a perfect way to explore the countryside. Life in the slow lane, mindful and real.
The Vespa (meaning wasp) is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by Piaggio. A design classic and a symbol of the ‘dolce vita’, born in Florence back in 1946. Seventy five years later, more than 18 million models have been sold. There is a dedicated museum in the heart of Rome not far from The Colosseum. Here you can see a number of celebrated models, complete with videos and vintage photos. Small it maybe, but you feel you are in the midst of the 1950s heyday. Here the memorabilia highlight featured roles in films such as Alfie and Larry Crowne and Audrey Hepburn riding side-saddle with Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.
The rivalry between mods and rockers was the all the rage in the 60s. The mod revival in 1979 was fuelled by the release of Quadrophenia which attracted the attention of a new generation Today, vintage Vespas and Lambrettas smothered in the full regalia of lights, mirrors, badges, chrome and whip aerials are still extremely popular and parade at many gatherings today.
Home and abroad, from exploring the ancient roads and grandiose monuments of Rome to guided tours of water drenched rice fields, workers laden with baskets wearing conical leaf hats and humble villages of Vietnam. There are many two-wheel tours available to enhance any holiday or day trip.
As for my future journeys, I’m opting for a Vespa tour in Italy. How can you resist riding through vines, past olive groves, the smells and the scenes of Italian life with gingham tablecloths laden with olive oil, French bread, and carafes of wine. A cooling light wind on your face while the sun crochets a design as it meanders through vineyards of a variety wine estates. Slow travel, Italian style. After the tour, wine tastings or a tipple of the finest Pino Grigio is definitely on my to do list. In the meantime, helmet on, the coast is clear, I’m off on my sightseeing tour.
Hop-on, rev-up and enjoy the moving scenery for yourself.
A moped up to 50cc can be ridden if you have held a UK driving licence for a number of years.
A CBT test. (Compulsory Basic Training) is not compulsory but helps to gain confidence. Always wear a helmet and suitable protective clothing.
Be mindful, observant and enjoy.