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Nothing beats the freedom of cruising in style on a Vespa scooter, the scooter’s Limassol club tell NAOMI LEACH
What do Jamie Oliver, the classic film Roman Holiday and the 1960s subculture Mods all have in common? In short, it is their shared appreciation of the effortlessly stylish Vespa scooter. The iconic Italian brand, manufactured by Piaggio since 1946, wasn’t designed exclusively for urbanite Italians nipping around the cobbled streets of Rome. Instead, whether renovated, restored or newly produced, these affordable scooters have continued to capture the imagination of each generation’s youth. Despite having first graced Hollywood screens and city streets over half a century ago, the Vespa is now growing increasingly popular in Cyprus.
With their shapely, retro aesthetics, these scooters are still able to mesmerise the crowds. Multiply the effect by 20 as a convoy of shimmering metal and pastel coloured machines drive past and you’re guaranteed to turn heads, explains Theo Timmis, a member of the Vespa Club of Limassol.
“We were driving down the Limassol sea front and everyone on the streets was stopping, everyone was looking, beeping their horns and filming it. It felt good,” enthuses Theo, who owns a restored 1960s Primavera 125 in an Italian flag colour scheme of vibrant green, red and white.
“The main thing that got me into Vespas was my dad, who used to be a Mod in the 1960s. He’d go to Brighton on his scooter with all his mates. He still has a Vespa and has passed one of his original bikes on to me.”
Vespa, which translates as wasp in Italian, received its name due to the high buzzing sound the original engine would make. Following the 1952 Hollywood success of Roman Holiday, celebrities of the day such as Marlon Brando and Dean Martin became notable Vespa drivers. Manufacturing expanded across Europe and the number of Vespa owners soared throughout the 1960s, particularly in the UK. In 1996, when the brand marked its 50th anniversary it was estimated that over 15 million scooters had been sold worldwide.
Outlining their surge in popularity, Theo says: “More and more people nowadays, especially the younger generation (25 year olds) are interested in Vespas because it’s more of a stylish bike to drive. When you’re past the time when want to do lots of wheelies and you want to look good, more and more people are getting into Vespas. It’s a nice form of transport in the summer and is handy in a city.”
He adds: “A while ago people wouldn’t know what a Vespa is. Now people are more aware. More people realise it’s an investment. There’s not so many old ones lying around but you could pick some up in the villages or in someone’s backyard.”
The Vespa Club of Limassol is keen to attract a variety of people who own the brand whether their model is old or new. One of its 60 members owns a rare Vespa VN1T, another has a Vespa with a sidecar.
The bi-lingual club, which was founded in 2002, meets weekly to plan rides in the countryside together and to share scooter renovation and modification tips. For an annual fee, members are given free sticker logos and a club T-shirt. Theo emphasises “you have to want to become a member because you enjoy riding not for free clothes, entry to a bar or a meal but because you have a passion for it.”
Every Thursday evening in Limassol old town’s Salut bar the sociable group meet up. They ride out at least once a month to one of the nearby mountain villages and recently organised to go camping in Polis.
In May, the Vespa Club of Limassol joined forces with Nicosia’s Vespa-Lambretta Club of Cyprus and Larnaca’s Friends of Vespa Lambretta for an annual social mixer at Zygi’s old harbour. The Vespa Club of Limassol and its 32-strong convoy met at Limassol seafront to make the journey together. Once the groups had arrived at Zygi, they played games including balancing competitions and dined together at a tavern. The event attracted over 80 Vespa enthusiasts from all over Cyprus.
The Limassol club is now eager to encourage other Vespa owners to join. “In Cyprus we have good weather and locations. You can go through villages because there’s no traffic, just open roads and easy rides,” says Theo.
Theo tries to articulate the appeal of a Vespa scooter over a motorbike and highlights how customisable Vespa’s can be “Everyone has Vespa but very different taste.”
He concludes: “If people are looking for a hobby and a passion to get into something I would recommend joining our club. It’s a good way of getting to know people and getting to know Cyprus.”
VESPAS IN CYPRUS
Vespa Club Limassol (Facebook group)
Vespa-Lambretta Club of Cyprus, Nicosia (Facebook group)
Friends of Vespa Lambretta Larnaca (Facebook group)
To browse Vespa models visit www.piaggio.com available in in Cyprus from Demstar Automotive