“All roads lead to Rome,” as the saying goes. And when you arrive there, you’ll most likely find the city’s roads filled with two things: traffic jams and Vespa scooters weaving in and out of the gridlock.
A beloved icon of la dolce vita and modern Italian culture, the stylish scooters are celebrated in a small permanent exhibition located beneath a bike hire store near the Imperial Forum. Visitors who venture into the basement of the Bici & Baci shop will find a Vespa shrine with vintage models from across the decades.
On display alongside the scooters, advertising material and mannequins dressed in period clothing attest to the brand’s heritage. Photographs of film stars like Charlton Heston, Audrey Hepburn, and Gregory Peck riding Vespas also showcase the vehicle’s status as an emblem of cool.
The film Roman Holiday, starring Hepburn and Peck, is undoubtedly a key reason for the scooter’s international fame and appeal. The Vespa company’s origins may be in Florence, but the 1953 Hollywood movie immortalized the scooters and their link to the Italian capital.
The Bici & Baci rental outlet owner Claudio Sarra opened the museum space in 2013 to commemorate the film’s 60th anniversary. The permanent exhibition remains open to the public and free to visit. Of course, if visitors are completely swept away in the romance of the scooters and fancy recreating Hepburn and Peck’s wild rides around Roman landmarks, they can always hire a Vespa for themselves in the shop upstairs.
Know Before You Go
The museum space is situated beneath the Bici & Baci bicycle and scooter rental outlet on Via Cavour. The store is easily found thanks to the many scooters parked out front and the clear signage. There is also usually a display board that allows tourists a photo opportunity as they pretend to be Hepburn and Peck in Roman Holiday. The nearest Metro stops are Colosseo and Cavour (on the Metro B line) and the museum is very close to the Imperial Forum. The exhibition space is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and there is no entry charge. Visitors with mobility issues should be advised that access to the space is by stairs into a basement.