Vroom with a View by Peter Moore

Vroom with a View: In Search of Italy's Dolce Vita on a '61 Vespa is a very amusing travelogue through Northern Italy as seen from the back of that most iconic of Italian motor scooters - the mighty Vespa. Meandering via the back roads through bucolic countryside and visiting the best tourist spots the regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Lazio have to offer, Vroom with a View provides a breezy armchair escape to one of the most loved parts of the world.

Having watched too many Sophia Loren movies in his youth, Moore has long dreamed of being able to ride a Vespa around Italy as the epitome of coolness. Unlike most of us that would never bring that dream to fruition, Moore meets the Godfather of Vespa's, The Waspmaster, via the Internet and is soon buying a 1961 125cc Vespa in Milan, which he quickly anoints, Sophia.

So begins a wonderful journey for Moore with the new found love of his life. Armed with a few choice words of Italian to throw at errant (all) Italian motorists, Moore tears off from Milan to Lake Como and then back again before traversing the Apennines to the UNESCO World Heritage listed coast of Cinque Terre. Moore then hums along in tune with Sophia's 2-stroke engine to picturesque Tuscany where he spends some romantic time with his, real flesh, girlfriend before finally tearing himself away to finish up in Rome.

Vrrom with a View provides delightful descriptions of a wide range of breathtaking places that Moore visits on his journey. There are the usual on-the-beaten-path spots such as Pisa, Florence and Rome, but it is when he utilises the freedom that his Vespa affords him to go to less well known places such as Castellina, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni and accessing highways with fabulous names such as Via Francigena and the Chiantigiana (Chianti Way), that Vroom to a View excels. In a pure moment of serendipity, I also received an email detailing 12 secret towns in Italy from The Culture Trip in my inbox on the day I wrote this review which included Monteriggioni on their list.

In visiting such charming places, Moore provides plenty of wish-you-were-here moments. It's hard not to be impressed by the inexpensive lodgings that he frequents, including amazingly restored 14th century Dominican monasteries, quaint agriturismos and magnificent villas. What really comes through in abundance though, is his love of the journey he has undertaken which he describes with an infectious joy whilst on the back of his beloved Vespa and when spending time with his girlfriend. Additionally, it is the relationships he forges out on the lash with his "maverick" Vespa friends Filippo (The Waspmaster) and Marco, that also delights. These Vespa enthusiasts, have even become semi-famous off the back of Moore's book and are featured themselves in an article of The Italy Magazine.

Whilst there's plenty of mention of the old time Italian classic movies that have inspired Moore's Italian wanderlust such as Roman Holiday, Three Coins in a Fountain and The Talented Mr Ripley, surprisingly there's little mention of E. M. Forster's book A Room with a View on which the book's title is played upon (although Frances Mayes book, Under the Tuscan Sun does get a look in). In no way, thought, does this detract from Vroom with a View's overall appeal. 

Moore has fashioned a great travelogue through the land of olives, coffee, vineyards, gelatos and famously cured pigs. Vespa enthusiasts will also be overjoyed, as there is plenty of history provided on this motor scooter and whilst Vroom with a View isn't quite amore for me, it is a fantastico read that'll have you chortling most of the way to the end. For those interested in an abridged version of the book which first appeared in the Lonely Planet anthology, Flightless, it is available here, although bear in mind that this isn't a patch on the full version.

3 and a half stars out of 5

Credit: Banner photo by Thomas Fabian