Italian Scooters

You cannot go far in Italy without seeing a Scooter or two, they are iconic and deeply entwined in the country’s soul. I love them, yet have never ridden one, let alone owned one myself. They are one of those things that evoke recognition of where you are. Mopeds are to Italy what bicycles are to The Netherlands, what sunflowers are to the Dordogne or just as iconic as a Pizza!

Somehow, subconsciously I have found, whilst going through my collection of photos taken from the trip, a whole host of images of these two wheeled wonders. In fact I wish I had taken more, as I am sure there is a project here for another time.

So in the interests of sharing some possibly useless facts, I gleaned the following (from Google of course!)

  • Enrico Piaggio was not a fan of conventional motorcycles, he hated them! In fact he asked his chief engineer, Corradino D’Ascanio to design the first model on his behalf!
  • The Vespa was an instant hit but it wasn’t untilĀ  they featured in the Hollywood feature film “Roman Holiday” that their success really took off
  • It was inspired by an American military motorcycle, The Cushman Model 53, better known as the Airborne, was a rugged, lightweight motorcycle with small wheels, which was designed to be parachuted into war zones during WW2. Many were dropped into Italy around Milan and Turin to be used by Italian resistance fighters and, as a result, were a common sight.
  • Originally parts for the Vespa scooters were manufactured by Alfa Romeo

Heavenly light

Having just been to the Pantheon we visited the Basilica de Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, just one block away. The church is named after what stood on the same site beforehand, the ruins of an old temple dedicated to Minerva, the Greco Roman Goddess. The word “sopra” meaning “over it” when translated into English.

The Church is the only extant example of Gothic architecture in Rome where many others assume the Baroque style.

The light was just heavenly and helped me create this photo without which I doubt it would have been anywhere near as effective.

Rome at first light

Those early hours of the day cannot be beaten for the subtle hues of light they present us with. It was worth setting the alarm for and leaving the hotel early, as after all they would still be serving breakfast until well after 10am. We could head out, take our photographs and be back in time for some food and coffee.

We took the Metro from Termini station to the Piazza di Spagna which is close to the Spanish Steps. We climbed the steps which were dead quiet compared to a couple of days before. The only people present were wedding couples having their photos taken. The light was still muted twilight and the air pleasant with a crispness to it. It belied the intense humid heat of the previous day (though that soon graced us with it’s presence).

We were also pleased to note that the hawkers had yet to arrive and nobody was thrusting goods we had no need nor interest in to our open hands. We could walk in peace and the only people around were those setting off to work, runners and dog walkers in their office suits.

Tina was taking photos of various things she was seeing and I had with me my Manfrotto BeFree tripod with it’s fluid head. It’s super light and easy to carry. I’d transported it in one of our cases without any issue. It came in handy on this morning. I had been shooting handheld most of the time which nowadays is so easy to get away with when you consider how good image stabilisation is and the breadth of ISO settings available. It’s rather liberating!

I still use a tripod for some things though. It still helps enforce some discipline in my work. So I was pleased I took it with me and it was useful for some video too.

Having reached the top of the Spanish Steps we headed up towards Villa Borghese and the viewpoints that overlook the rooftops and out towards Vatican City.

This shot was taken along the way, as the light began to break through and the sky started looking considerably more interesting than it had done only minutes before. The sunlight bathed the buildings with a delightful array of pastel colours.

We did make it back for breakfast and we certainly had more of an appetite than usual. It was well worthwhile and this is one of my favourite shots from our trip.

The Pantheon

Setting foot inside the mighty Pantheon for the first time filled me with awe, its size is deceptive, though it does seem imposing from the outside, it strangely feels bigger on the inside. I can’t quite explain this but it might be the vast ceiling with it’s giant aperture in the middle which projects a constant beam of light into it’s cavernous interior during the daylight hours that creates this illusion.

Like so many places in the Eternal City, it is popular with Tourists and so we got there as early as we could which does make all of the difference, as you can no doubt imagine. Rome has it’s fair share of places for which you need to pay or in some cases obtain tickets in advance, The Pantheon is free and as such there are no queues for getting in.