The Piaggio Museum was inaugurated in March 2000 in the tooling department of the ancient factory, one of the oldest and most evocative units of the Pontedera factory complex, where the company transferred its production in the early ‘20s.
The Museum was created to preserve and highlight the value and the historic legacy of one of the oldest Italian companies, and focuses on the reconstruction of Piaggio activities in the area; exhibiting the most representative and famous products and giving access to the rich documentation of the Piaggio Historical Archive, the museum traces a long period of Italian history, a history made of economic transformations, alongside industrial and social development.
Entirely renovated in 2018, after 18 years of activity and more than 600.000 visitors, the Piaggio Museum has a surface area of 5.000 m², with more than 250 pieces exhibited. It has become today the largest and most comprehensive Italian museum dedicated to two wheels, including many unique examples that do not just tell of the history of the Piaggio Group and its brands, but also trace the history of a country’s mobility and industrial and social development, since the Piaggio story spans the entire history of transport: ships, trains, aeroplanes, cars, scooters and motorcycles have been born out of the parent company and its brands. As such, the Museum is the only one in Italy able to trace the history of a such a highly technological and innovative industry, the evolution of which has marked the history of Italy and Europe.
The Museum halls contain fundamental testaments to Piaggio pre-war aeronautical and rail production, the rich and admired Vespa collection, the Piaggio three and four wheels collection (Ape, Porter, mopeds) and numerous pieces belonging to the motorcycle and sport history of the Group brands: Aprilia, Gilera and Moto Guzzi, which all together boast the brilliant result of 104 world titles in various competitions, from Supermoto to MotoGP, from Trial to SBK.
Alongside the exhibition space dedicated to permanent collections, the Piaggio Museum also dedicates 340 m² to temporary exhibitions, allowing the museum to continuously vary its cultural offer, spanning fields from art to technology, and from scientific disclosure to fashion. Over the years, these spaces have hosted exhibitions, events and works by extraordinary artists such as Dalì, Picasso and, among the Italians, Burri, Nomellini, Viani, Pellizza da Volpedo, Fattori, Modigliani, Carrà, Signorini, Soffici, Spreafico, Nespolo and other major players in the world of modern and contemporary art.
In 2003, the Piaggio Museum and the Historic Archive were awarded Best Museum and Best Business Archive in Italy, during the 2003 Business and Culture Prize-giving
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).
The first motorcycle to be built by Giuseppe Gilera opens a chronological pathway, illustrated with images from the Gilera Historic Archive, which takes in many of the bikes that have contributed to the history of the Arcore motorcycle firm, acquired by Piaggio in 1969.
The 1909 VT 317, the flagship, is characterised by transmission from the crankshaft to the rear wheel using a leather belt and presents a very advanced engine with two overhead valves and large fins on the cylinder and head.
1920s and 30s Gilera production is represented by the 350 Super Sport and the 500 VL Sei Giorni. Following on from the essentially experimental creations of the 1933-34 period, the overhead valve engine – identified with the letters VT – was definitively launched as a standard product in 1935. Among others, the Museum exhibits 500 VT Bitubo models, with their ‘fish tail’ double exhaust with rhomboidal profile, and the 500 Otto Bulloni.
A unique example in this collection is the Gilera Rondine (also exhibited with a fairing), the bike that changed the sporting destiny of the Arcore manufacturer, smashing the 50 and 100 kilometre, and the 50 and 100 mile records, as well as the speed record in 1937, reaching 274 km/h. From then on, the Rondine’s career was studded with speed records and legendary feats such as Monza in 1937 and, that same year, the Milan-Taranto. The next testament to the success of the Gilera brand is the 500 Saturno Sport, launched in 1940, one of the world’s most famous bikes. Of the racing bikes prepared by Giuseppe Gilera for the racing “giant”, there is the Saturno Sanremo and the Saturno Piuma, officially presented in 1952 and a race winner up until 1957. The Piaggio Museum collection also includes the 1952 Saturno Cross, with the racing version of the engine with alloy cylinder, and the 175 Regolarità from 1956.
The efforts and victories at racetracks around the world are represented by models such as the 125 and 175 twins and the queen, the 500 Quattro Cilindri, also in a side-car version.
The Gilera Quattro Cilindri is one of the most successful, well-known and celebrated bikes of all time, a winner from 1949 to 1957. Years in which it won 6 Riders’ World Titles and 5 Manufacturers’ World Titles in the 500 class. This, in addition to 6 Italian championships, 7 Grand Prix of Nations as well as many other podiums. In 1956 and 1957, the Quattro Cilindri side-car twice won the Grand Prix of Nations, with driver Albino Milani and his brother Rossano reaching speeds of 190 km/h, exceeding the average of 160 km/h for a Monza lap.
There is also a very recently restored series of race models from the 1980s and 90s.
Fans will be particularly moved as they admire the bike with which Marco Simoncelli scored Gilera its 14th world title in the 250 class in 2008.
Exhibited for the first time are some of the bikes built for the Italian Army and Finance Police, stand-outs including the Gilera Saturno 500 Militare and the 300 Bicilindrica Guardia di Finanza.
A brand-new section features a small but precious selection of Moto Guzzis, one of which is the extraordinary 1957 Moto Guzzi V8, a mechanical masterpiece and one of the most famous bikes of all time.
The collection is completed by the highly sought-after 1958 Falcone 500 and the Galletto 175. A truly unique piece is the TOMOTO, an exclusive model customised by British designer Tom Dixon in 2017, to mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary Moto Guzzi V7. Fans of the well-known TV show “Lord of the Bikes”, dedicated to motorcycle customisation, will be able to admire the Moto Guzzi that won the 2016 edition.
To celebrate the 294 GP wins scored by Aprilia , some of the Noale manufacturer’s racing bikes will be exhibited for the first time, against an evocative backdrop that highlights the faces, images and figures of its success. The world championship winning bikes play a starring role of course: the RS 125 that, in 1997, saw Valentino Rossi become World Champion for the first time, the RSV 250 bikes with which Loris Capirossi and Manuel Poggiali celebrated in 1998 and 2003 respectively, and the RSV4 Factory that led Max Biaggi to victory in the 2010 SBK world championship.