Chi Vespa… What does it mean?

'An apple a day...' and all that.
‘An apple a day…’ and all that.

50cc scooters was and is a big market in Italy for a number of reasons, not only for the fact they’re cheap to run, but also that you can ride one from the age of 14.

Piaggio beat Lambretta to the market by launching their first Vespa 50 first in 1963, offering stylish transport for the teenagers of Italy. Yes there were mopeds before that, but they were generally large-wheeled things that you pedalled to start and basically didn’t look as cool as a Vespa!

Throughout the 1960s the Vespa 50 evolved and the range soon included both commuter and sports versions.

Italian advert for the Vespa 50 and Vespa 50 Special, circa 1971.
Italian advert for the Vespa 50 and Vespa 50 Special, circa 1971.

The Vespa 50 Special was launched in 1969 and with it came a new advertising campaign to the newspapers, magazines, billboards and televisions of Italy. Piaggio’s slogan for the forthcoming new decade was to be, ‘Chi Vespa mangia le mele’. Roughly translated it meant ‘the person who Vespas, eats the apple’, Vespa becomg a verb thanks to clever marketing. Of course the follow-up line on the adverts confirms that the person who does not ‘Vespa’ goes without apples. What a great combintion, hey?

Piaggio continued this advertising theme in Italy for the early part of the 70s, adpating their apple for different models of scooter as they were launched. It didn’t really translate that well into English, although the apple symbol they used has since become recognised worldwide by Vespa fans as associated with the marque and Piaggio now use it on memorabilia and clothing which is marketed at lifestyle customers.

That aside, I just like the imagery from this period. Piaggio’s advertising and marketing of the Vespa has always been strong – well, from the 1940s until the 80s at least – and this period in particular I think works really well. It’s probably helped by the fact that my first scooter was a 1973 Vespa 90 and my favourite Vespa today is a Rally 200 from the same period. Vivid colours, pretty girls, gorgeous scooter and plenty of fruit!


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