Roberto Patrignani

From Milan to Tokyo On a Vespa

Published on 28 May 2021

Roberto Patrignani (1935-2008) began racing motorcycles and writing about them at the same time. As a racer, he took part in two Milan-Taranto races, two Tours of Italy (Giri d’Italia), competed three times at the Tourist Trophy and was a world record holder on a Moto Guzzi 1000 and a Garelli 50. As a journalist, he wrote for the main Italian specialist publications and also for some foreign ones. 

On the occasion of the Olympic Games in Japan, on 11 July 1964, Patrignani left Milan for Tokyo on a Vespa 150, which had been specially set up and tested by the Experiences Division (Reparto Esperienze) of the Piaggio factory in Pontedera. The purpose of the journey was to take with him a small golden wasp (vespina d’oro), a gift of best wishes from the Vespa Club of Italy to the Olympic Games Committee.

The exploit took 85 days: 13,000 km through Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Thailand and Malaysia.

Patrignani accomplished other extraordinary feats after this: in 1966, he travelled from Cape Town to Asmara on a Guzzi Dingo 50 motorcycle and from Charleston to Los Angeles on a Garelli moped in 1980.

In the summer of 2014 – 50 years after his father’s exploit – his son, Franco, travelled 8,000 km on a Vespa 300 GTS, on a coast to coast trip from New York to San Francisco, showing their common passion.


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