The Piaggio Museum was inaugurated in March 2000 and occupies the 3,000 square meters of the company’s former tool-shop in one of the oldest and most characteristic bodies of the industrial complex in Pontedera, where Piaggio started its production in the early nineteen twenties. The Museum was created to preserve and highlight the value of a historic legacy. The objective is to tell the history of Piaggio and through it the development of Italian industry, economy and society by exhibiting some of the company’s best known, most representative products and through the documents and images of its extensive Archive.
Fundamental examples of the company’s production prior to the launch of the Vespa in 1946, welcome the visitor at the entrance of the Piaggio Museum: a MC2 54 train engine, a P148 airplane, a two-seater acrobatic training plane produced in 1951. Inside the museum, two stellar plane engines, built in the Pontedera and Pisa plants in the Thirties, dominate the central hall.
Since its inauguration in 2000, the Piaggio Museum has welcomed more than 400.000 visitors, recording a constant increase which mainteined a record more than 44,000 visitors in 2015. It is amongst the first five most visited industrial museums in Italy.
The Museum’s main attraction bringing enthusiasts from around the world is, however, the Vespa Collection, unique in its kind. It is only in Pontedera in fact that one can find the precious prototypes produced in the forties: the MP5, nicknamed “Paperino”, Piaggio’s first exercise in scooters, produced in a very few, untraceable units between 1943 and 1944; and the MP6, the famous prototype of the Vespa designed by Corradino d’Ascanio in the autumn of 1945.
Amongst the standard production models one can admire the “classics” of the vast Vespa collection (over a hundred and forty versions) highlighted by the first 98cc series launched in April 1946; the 1951 Vespa 125cc, the model used by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the set of Roman Holiday: the 1953 Vespa “U” (as in “Utilitaria” or economy vehicle), built in only 7.000 units, currently amongst the most sought after by collectors around the world); the first “gran turismo”, the 1955 Vespa GS 150cc; the 1963 Vespa 50cc (known to all Italians as the “Vespino”), which was a milestone in the history of the most famous scooter in the world (which was followed, in 1969, by the huge success of the 50cc Special); the 1965 90cc Super Sprint, mythical ride for sporty youngsters; the 1967 125cc Primavera, a true cult amongst youngsters of the time. The Seventies are beautifully represented by the Vespa 125cc Primavera ET3 and by the Vespa 200cc Rally, which in those years introduced an innovative technical solution like the electronic ignition, and by the Vespa 1977 PX 125, “replicated” in a giant version, an out of scale model 4 meters in height in fiberglass and red varnish.
Piaggio has developed upgraded engines for competitive events since 1947, and has taken part in races throughout Italy, believing racing triumphs to be an important tool to publicise the quality and performance of the Vespa. The Piaggio Museum has a number of outstanding pieces in its collection. Two different models of the Vespa 98 Corsa of 1947, on which Giuseppe Cau rode to victory in the Monte Mario and Rocca di Papa hillclimbs. The stunning “alloy frame” Vespa 125 Corsa from 1949, built with the aluminium alloy used for aircraft bodies and assembled with alloy rivets, adopting a technological solution that was cutting edge at the time. The Vespa Montlhéry, winner of 17 world records on the French circuit in 1950. The Vespa Siluro designed by Corradino d’Ascanio, with which test rider Dino Mazzoncini broke the standing kilometer speed record on 9 February 1951, on the Rome-Ostia road, with a time of 21.4 seconds and an average speed of 171.1 km/h. The Vespa Sei Giorni, star of one of the Piaggio team’s most important successes, with nine gold medals won in the “XXVI International Six Days” event in Varese in 1951.
Another interesting area of the Museum looks at the relationship between the timeless legend of the Vespa and various forms of artistic expression, notably contemporary art and cinema. The core of the exhibit is a real gem in the collection: the Vespa Dalì, a 150 S scooter on which two students from Madrid, Santiago Guillén and Antonio Veciana, undertook a “round-the-world-in-79 days” trip in 1962. In the “mythological” re-interpretation by Volterran artist Mino Trafeli, an elongated Vespa PX with alabaster insets is turned into an authentic work of art, created for an anthology of the artist’s work held at the Piaggio Museum in 2003. This now well-established tradition means the section is constantly expanded and renewed, with the acquisition of new Vespa scooters in re-interpretations by the various artists hosted by the Museum, beginning with the Vespa created in 2010 by Ugo Nespolo for the exhibition The Vespa and the Movies. A separate area is devoted to the cinema – which has played a vital role in building the Vespa ‘legend’ around the world – with a number of vehicles used in well-known movies and a touch-screen monitor where visitors can watch some of the most memorable movie scenes in the history of cinema starring the Vespa: Roman Holidays (1953), Alfie, La Dolce Vita (1960), Quadrophenia (1979), as well as Nanni Moretti’s Caro Diario (1993) and Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter (2005). The section also presents Vespa interpretations by prominent artists like Giampaolo Talani and Luca Moretto and several Vespa ET4 scooters created in 2001 by young designers for the “VespArte” competition organised by Piaggio.
The Museum’s collection is enriched by the products that have made the success of the company in the personal transport sector from 1946: the Ape (of which various models are displayed, including the 1953 Cassone, the 1856 Calessino, the “fireproof” version of the Pentarò launched in 1962 and a beautiful version of the entirely hand painted “Sicilian cart”), the mopeds (from the 1955 prototype to the Ciao introduced in 1967), the Vespa 400cc (a small car that Piaggio produced from 1957 to 1961 in the ACMA plant in France and the Moscone (“the Sea Vespa”, outboard motor launched in 1949).
A special part of the Museum, finally, is dedicated to the Gilera Collection, historic motorcycle manufacturers of Arcore, bought by Piaggio in 1969. The collection includes some very precious exhibits, from the 1937 “faired” Rondine (which had a huge success on the tracks with record breaking feats), the 500cc Saturno Sport (designed in 1940 by Giuseppe Salmaggi), the 500cc Saturno Sanremo, the 125cc and 175cc Two cylinder and the 500cc Four cylinder, just to mention a few.