Roaming Holiday: Touring Tuscany on a 2006 Vespa GTS250ie

Have you got a taste for good Chianti? Can't have a meal without an antipasti first? Do you have a preference for tight-fitting and/or mesh undergarments? Do you only obey traffic laws when it makes sense to do so? Does the sight of a swoopy, steel-bodied motorscooter make you swoon?

Answering "yes" to more than three of the above questions means you are either actually Italian or a Vespa enthusiast. Maybe you rode a Vespa in college or high school, back in the day when you could pick up a decent used one for a few hundred bucks. If you're like me, you have some great memories of the distinctive ring-ding-ding of the motor and the smell of two-stroke exhaust as you rode around town care free.

Times have changed. No more deep-fried food, unprotected sex, or two-stroke engines for you. However, the other distinctive element of the Vespa-a brightly-painted steel monocoque body-is alive and well and being built in Piaggio's Pantadera, Italy factory. The latest model-the GTS250ie-is the biggest, fastest and most luxurious Vespa ever built.

The Vespa waits outside the Colluseum while Gabe gets thrown to the lions.It just so happened that The Wife and I were going to be in Italy on vacation, so why not take advantage of both Piaggio and the US Tax Code and get a little work done while I'm over there? A few missives to our faithful European correspondent, Yossef Schvetz, led to Piaggio arranging for a new Vespa to be available for us to ride from Rome to Florence and back.

If a two-up round trip of over 400 miles by scooter sounds daunting, have no

fear. Your faithful correspondent actually made a 5,000-mile round trip on his 1981 Vespa P200E some years ago, riding from San Francisco to New Orleans and back on the rattly machine. The new Vespa would be "no problem" according to Piaggio's Italian media relations person, as it was much larger and more powerful than the smoky old bikes.

The Wife and I arrived in Rome in the midst of a searing heat wave in the height of the summer tourist season. We rented a smaller scooter to get us around Rome for a few days, and after spending about two hours being lost in the north end of the giant, smoggy metropolis, we found the Piaggio dealership where we were to pick up the Vespa. We were hot, dirty, thirsty and tired.

All that faded away as we saw our new toy. "It's so cute!" said the wife, and I had to agree. The GTS250ie is all about high style, and it has a visual impact that draws you in from across the room. The curves and sharp edges evoke both the classic Vespas of bygone years and the cutting-edge industrial design that Italy is known for.


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