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In search of Italy’s Dolce Vita on a ’61 Vespa

“Its punning title sets the tone for this off-beat travel book…touched by romance and haunted by the glamour of Sophia Loren” 

You Magazine

A sepia-hued journey from Milan to Rome on a Vespa that was the same age as me and in the same condition – a little rough around the edges, but going OK.

About

The summer I turned forty I decided to chase a boyhood dream. To go to Italy and seek out its celebrated dolce vita on the back of a Vespa.

It couldn’t be just any old Vespa. I wanted a bike as old as I was and in the same sort of condition: a bit slow in the mornings but OK once going. I found it on eBay Italy and fell instantly in love. She had saddle seats, temperamental electrics and a little too much chrome. The sort of scooter you’d image a sharp-suited Marcello Mastroianni riding.

I promptly christened her Sophia (after Sophia Loren, of course) and soon we were rattling along the cobble streets of hilltop towns and through the Italian countryside.

Things didn’t always go smoothly – Sophia was as temperamental and wilful as her Hollywood counterpart – but there was always a helpful local at hand, not just to get Sophia going again, but to show me a side of their country I would not have otherwise seen.

Start your journey now for only 99p!

Sally and Sophia in Lucca
Vroom With A View (Ebook)

Here’s some great news. Vroom With A View is available as an eBook on Amazon right now for the bargain price of only 99p/99c. You’re just a click or two away from riding through the sepia-hued tones of Tuscany with Sophia. Ciao bella!

Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Amazon USA | Apple Worldwide

Photos from the trip …

Please forgive the poor quality of the images in this gallery. The originals are in a storage unit in Australia, so I’ve had to use images from when the web was slow and high resolution was a curse rather than a blessing. I plan to visit my storage unit some time this year. When I do, rest assured, the image quality will improve dramatically.

14 comments
  1. Hey Peter

    Just finished “Vroom with a View”. Great story, I’m in Vernazza just now, returning to LHR on Sunday then home to Vancouver Island on the 26th. Throughly enjoyed your adventures with Sally on Sophia. Is she in Australia?

    Wondering what happened to lovely Sally.

    I’m a road trip guy usually in my 2002 GMC pickup with small wood camper, home built, and plan another major one this winter, returning to Mexico 🇲🇽, East side this time.

    Looking forward to reading “The Full Montezuma” over the next while,

    Cheers, safe travels.

    Roger Frost

    1. Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your comment! I hope you’re enjoying your time in Vernazza. Lovely town. Even if they wouldn’t let Sophia in!

      Re: Sally. Yep, we’re still together. Married, living in London, with a daughter.

      Re: Sophia. She lives in Livorno with Marco, in his new workshop/museum that is even more pristine than his first. I pop over occasionally to visit!

      Have a great trip in Mexico.

      Cheers

      Peter

      1. I have just finished this great book for the second time and was about to send a letter.

        The answers to most of my questions are above!

        Buona fortuna a tutti.

  2. Hi Peter,

    Just read two of your books…the Vespa related 2!.. Bloody brilliant.

    I went on eBay and got two Kinder Surprise scooters from Belgium…one green and one red. I’ll send you a pic.

    All the best mate.

    Kind regards

    GARY.😎

    1. Thanks Gary. Glad to hear you enjoyed my books. Never knew there was a red Kinder Surprise Vespa. I only got the green one. Send the pic and I’ll whack it up here in the comments.

      Cheers

      Peter

  3. Hello Peter,

    I have just finished your book ‘Vroom with a View’ (autographed copy I might add) that I picked up from a beautiful little town in Victoria called Lorne.

    I can honestly say that your book has inspired my travel plans that I keep note in our ‘Nevill Destinations’ book.

    The Italy entry has now had an expansion of locations that I may have never known to visit.

    Thank you for your wonderful story that will assist with my planning in the future!!

    Safe travels Peter.

    Ciao, Susan

    1. Thanks, Susan.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed Vroom. No sure being signed adds value or decreases it, but I’m happy to hear you’ve added some of my Italian ports of call to your post-COVID Wishlist.

      I was just speaking to Filippo last night who told me that he’d got a letter from the government saying he could open his business again after it was shut down because of the virus. Hopefully that’s a sign that things are slowly getting back to normal in Italy (or as normal as can be expected) and I’ll be able to pop over and see my Italian friends (and my Vespas!) again.

      Cheers

      Peter

  4. Hello Peter,

    I’ve just finished reading ‘Vroom With A View’. I loved it – couldn’t put it down!

    I love all things Vespa and Italy. My mate and I both have Vespas and ride out here in Malvern England.

    It was Steve who bought your book to my attention. I am glad he did.

    Take care. All the very best to you.

    Regards from Baz.

    1. Hi Baz,

      Thanks for your message. Glad to hear you enjoyed Vroom. Always means a lot from a fellow Vespista! Hope you’ve been enjoying a few lockdown rides in Malvern, if only to test your eyesight!

      Cheers

      Peter

  5. Hi Peter,
    I have just completed both Vrooms and I thought it would be remiss of me not to say how much I enjoyed both tales of adventure.

    I have been travelling to Italy every year for the past 16 years but unfortunately I had to cancel my Easter and Summer trips due to the recent Covid 19 crisis.

    Your Italian memoirs on your Vespa are the exact same reasons of why I fell in love with the country and they have provided me with sunshine and laughter during one of the most difficult times we have ever experienced globally.

    I found your narratives and concept of exploration extremely motivating and as a result I’m going to purchase a brand new Ferrari red Vespa GTS 125 with matching top box, a dream of mine for years.

    Next summer I plan to travel on the Hull to IJmuiden ferry, scoot past Amsterdam to Dusseldorf, jump on the Motorail all the way to Verona. From there I hope to survey Lake Garda and the Dolomites.

    The reason I state this is because you have provided me through your writings with the stimulus to ‘make it happen’, for this I thank you kind sir.

    By the way, why don’t you go for the Vespa trilogy, Vroom around the Lakes!!!!

    Grazie mille,

    Saluti,

    Sparky

    1. Hey Sparky,

      Thanks so much for your message. I really pleased to hear you enjoyed my ‘Vroom’ books. Even more so that they’ve motivated you to have your very own Italian Vespa adventure. I love it when that happens!

      I also like your idea fro the trilogy. I haven’t seen much of the north.

      Now … just got to convince the wife about buying another Vespa …

      Cheers!

  6. Hello Peter

    I have just about finished reading ‘Vroom’ for a third time. It gives me encouragement to get organised to fix my 1963 VNB 125cc (light blue) I bought in 1987 while at Uni in Wollongong.

    I gave my last copy of the book away when I sold my other Vespa (1975 Rally 200) to someone in Melbourne on the mistaken memory that you rode around Italy on a Rally. Anyway, it was always the curves of the 125 that I preferred.

    Sometime ago, I was reading your book “The Wrong Way Home” and at the end of the book you travel up the freeway to towards Liverpool NSW, “…past your old school…” and I’m thinking that’s got to be HAHS…I went there…who wrote this…Peter Moore…I know him…friend of my brother Mark. Small world. I enjoyed the references to life as a Westie.

    The sale of the (rusty) Rally turned $150 (after 20 years of being used occasionally and in the way) into $3500 and bought me a BMW K100 ($1000). As you know “Way leads onto way…” and I have several BMs.
    Still got the VNB, it is in bits in my Aladdin’s cave of a single car garage. It will ride again.

    Best wishes to you, your family, Lesley-Ann.

    Regards

    Guy Francis

    PS. Have a vague memory of you drinking some cocktail of whatever could be found in the kitchen at my parent’s place made by Al Woollard (?) and you jumping around to endure the torture. Think the payoff was $10 or less. Cheap bastard.

    1. Hey Guy,

      Great to hear from you! Hope all is well.

      I rode a 1975 Rally in my second Vroom book, ‘Vroom By The Sea‘, so your memory isn’t letting you down.

      And, as for being a cheap bastard, $10 was a lot of money back in those days.

      Having said that, I’d probably do it again for $10 all these years later, so you’re probably right.

      Good luck getting your ’63 back in shape!

      Cheers

      Peter

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