Pontedera, August 2021 – We all know That Vespisti love their Vespas, but going as far as celebrating birthdays, complete with a decorated cake as if it were a relative... well, that’s new. This was the rather original wish made by a long-standing Vespista and avid traveller, native Roman Francesco Muroni. This is how it went. Francesco sent an E-mail to the Vespa World Club secretary, Marco Manzoni, with the subject line: “40 years of my Vespa PX 150X (22 July 1981-22 July 2021).” Text: “This coming 22 July, my Vespa will turn 40 years old. I owe a good deal of the passion I have for the Vespa world to her who, since I purchased her (in 2015), has brought me great satisfaction. I should clarify that I had already owned a Vespa PX125E, with which I travelled extensively in Italy and abroad (Albania and Croatia, for example, for the Vespa World Days I attended) but in anticipation of the ‘Giro d'Italia in Vespa per l’autismo’ - Tour of Italy on Vespa for autism’, I needed a larger engine capacity to take on all the planned legs of the journey, along with my Vespista friends Augusto, Domenico and Agostino. I came across her... with ROME registration plates... and it was love at first sight! She owes her setup (travel) to that fantastic event in 2016. Her livery (wrapping) represents a painting by Ugo Nespolo created for the 50-year anniversary of the Inalpi company which, in addition to sponsoring us and bearing the expenses of the event, customised all four of our Giro d’Italia Vespas.
Photo courtesy of Simone Borghini.
After this charity event, I travelled a lot with her (the most recent and longest trips were Celle VWD - Vespa World Days in Germany and to Zánka, Hungary). I have also participated in numerous Vespa time-trial competitions and Audax, and I’ll continue to do so… I see my future, where Vespa is concerned, on a new generation Vespa, for example on an Electric.”
But, getting back to the event: “On the occasion of her 40th year of registration, I’d like to give my Vespa a nice gift. I’d like to take her to Pontedera and celebrate with a cake at the Piaggio Museum. I know this is an unusual request…”
Could the friends from VWC and the Piaggio Museum possibly not respond to a request as heartfelt as it was original? Absolutely not, and everything was carefully prepared to welcome the “birthday girl” and her rider, who is a Vespa Club Roma member. The “couple” arrived in the morning to find Marco Manzoli of VWC and the President of the Piaggio Foundation, Riccardo Costagliola waiting for them, along with the Piaggio Museum team and Vespisti friends.
Piaggio Museum, Pontedera. From the left, Marco Manzoli VWC with Francesco Muroni who, on the right, is with Piaggio Foundation President, Riccardo Costagliola.
The usual photos and then the cutting of the cake, a toast and applause for Francesco and his beloved Vespa for her “first 40 years”. Deeply moved, he thanked everyone before heading back to the Capital.
A few days later, with some of the emotion subsiding, we asked Francesco Muroni for a brief interview to get to know this Vespista better, affectionately known as FraVespa.
Tell us about yourself, Francesco...
“I'm 51 years old and I had the good fortune of being born in 1969 in Rome, the city where I still live. I graduated from technical industrial high school and, for family reasons, I had to look for work straight away to support myself, without being a burden to my mother, who was widowed very early on. Working - and I had many and various jobs - gave me the chance to appreciate the value of money, respect work and others and make some of my dreams come true. I'm happily married, and I have two sons: a 23 year-old girl and an 18 year-old boy.”
Tell us what you remember about that Giro d’Italia experience to raise awareness on autism?
“It was a magnificent experience. With departure on 3 September 2016 from Acquaviva delle Fonti (Bari) and arrival in Barletta (BAT) on 2 October, after a 7,500 km trip around Italy that high almost every Italian Region. I must say that a lot of the credit for the success of this charity event goes to Augusto Gaudino and Agostino Mastrorocco, the two great organisers of this edition who, with the contribution of Franco Di Braccio, who followed us throughout the trip with a support car, contacted the sponsors and Vespa Clubs that hosted us. The latter, understanding that the Vespa Giro d’Italia was for charity, gave their utmost contribution. The riders of the 4 participating Vespas were: Augusto Gaudino of Vespa Club Santhià (VC), Domenico Gelmi of Vespa Club Malonno (BS), Agostino Mastrorocco of Vespa Club Acquaviva delle Fonti (BA) and me, Francesco Muroni of Vespa Club Roma. This edition was also characterised by the presence of 2 female Vespa fans, Daniela Ariano of Vespa Club Oria (BR) and Annarita Lanotte of Vespa Club Barletta (BT), who travelled a few legs in Puglia and in Basilicata. As for my participation, due to work commitments that could not be postponed, I had to yield my spot to two other riders for a few legs: Bartolo Giustino of Vespa Club Acquaviva delle Fonti (BA) and Piermario Garbino of Vespa Club Biella, with whom I happily shared my Vespa and to whom I am forever thankful for their willingness to step in.”
You can find the summary, photos and videos of this solidarity event on the Facebook group
GIRO D’ITALIA IN VESPA – ANNO 2016
The 2016 edition of the ‘Giro d’Italia in Vespa’ was the 3rd one and it was called ‘L’autismo sale in Vespa & In Vespa sulle orme di San Francesco (Autism gets on Vespa & On Vespa in the steps of St. Francis) and it was conceived, as were the two previous editions held in 2011 and in 2013, by Augusto Gaudino, who is also the point of contact, by ANGSA (Associazione Nazionale Genitori Soggetti Autistici - National Association of Parents of Autistic Subjects) and by the “SANGUIS FRANCISCI” association, which was behind the restoration of the Castelvecchio Subequo (AQ) Church, where the relic with the blood of St. Francis’ stigmata is kept. That’s why they decided to add the phrase ‘In Vespa Sulle orme di San Francesco’ to the title. I should point out that Augusto Gaudino is the events contact point and organiser. His and Giuseppe Bezzon’s Vespas (present in the first two editions) are on display in the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera.”
Source of images: Piaggio Museum Facebook page. “The 1986 PX150E Arcobaleno and the 1979 Vespa PX150E used by lenders, Augusto Gaudino and Giuseppe Bezzon for their journeys intended to raise awareness of autism arrived at the Piaggio Museum.
How long have you been travelling on a Vespa?
“I took my first trip on a Vespa at 14 years of age, as a passenger, on my brother’s Vespa PX125E. We went to Sardinia and it was fantastic… However, I purchased my first Vespa at 23 with some money I had managed to save up. It was a hawthorn coloured, 1982 Vespa PX125E with Pisa registration plates. I bought it in Livorno from one of my co-workers who had left it parked in a garage for 10 years. When we went to look at it, I tried to start it and, despite having fuel in it from 10 years prior, it started almost straight away. When I was transferred to Rome for work, I took it with me and used it a lot in Rome. I still hadn't realised its true potential...
A few years later (in late 2010), when it came time to do some work on the engine and the body, I began searching the Internet and, thanks to the Vespaforever website, reading the various posts of the experts, I realised that, at least for the engine, I could do it myself. I bought all the necessary parts and, since I didn’t have a garage to work in, I brought the engine in the house (my flat in Rome doesn’t have any balconies) and I had to outfit the bedroom like a workshop... I started a new forum discussion about my situation and my bizarre post attracted a lot of curiosity and all the experts helped me close up the engine as quickly as possible to prevent my wife from asking for a divorce...
As soon as I mounted the engine on the Vespa, which had been repainted by the body shop in the meantime, I took my first unforgettable trip. I went to Ravenna on the Vespa, where we organised a meeting with Vespaforever website members. Two days to get to Ravenna and to days to get back (with an overnight stop in Perugia both ways). Making it to Ravenna (and back home…) on a Vespa with an engine I had rebuilt myself gave me great personal satisfaction and the confidence to tackle the long trips which I would take later with the PX125E (abroad to Albania, Croatia… and then almost all of Italy).
How long have you been a member of Vespa Club Roma?
“I joined Vespa Club Roma in 2004 when I returned to Rome from Livorno. For many years, I was a member who did not participate in the club activities (in any case, useful for registering with the Historic Vespa Registry). Then, after I rebuilt the engine, I began to travel and participate in many national and international rallies, proudly showing off the Vespa Club Roma colours. To participate in the ‘Giro d’Italia in Vespa per l’Autismo’, I purchased another Vespa, the one I have now, which is a 1981 P150X and which, precisely this past 22 July, celebrated 40 years from its first registration. The reason for this purchase was that I was looking for a larger engine capacity Vespa than the previous one (which, in the meantime, I gave to my son for his 18th birthday) in order to take on longer trips. I came across her, Guendalina... with Rome registration plates, and it was love at first sight…
In the Italian version of the Aristocats, Guendalina is one of the two geese who save Thomas (O'Malley the alley cat). Since then I have travelled only with her and she has given me great satisfaction in terms of touring (Germany, France and Hungary are the farthest places abroad) and almost all of Italy again (I'm only missing Sicily, which I’ll do at the end of August). I'm also a member of the Vespa Club Roma Squadra Corse (Vespa Club Roma Racing Team) and I have participated with my Vespa in numerous Vespa time-trial competitions, Audax and Historic Re-enactments. In recent years, before Covid-19, along with other riders on the team, we took Vespa Club Roma to the top step of the podium in the 2019 Historic Italian Re-enactment Championship - something that hadn’t happened for about 50 years.”
What trip do you dream of taking on your Vespa that you still haven’t?
“I dream about big trips like North Cape, a trip around Europe and Africa (and the desert) but to achieve them, I would need a lot of time off which my professional commitments obviously do not give me. I’ll wait until I retire and then I’ll take one big trip a year on my Vespa.”
What model in the current Vespa range do you like and why?
“Of the current Vespa range, the one I see as most suitable for my build (and which I also think is the most beautiful) is the Vespa Sprint 150 S, a good compromise between size, elegance, agility and performance.”
You wrote that in the future you might choose an electric Vespa... why?
“In the future, I don't know how distant, the electric ones could be the only vehicles on the road. And also because I'm an ecologist in my own small way... and I wish we all were. All I know is I’ll miss the classic sound of my Vespa’s engine and the smell of exhaust and two-stroke fuel... that I grew up with and that I currently co-exist well with...”
What was the best moment of your “career” as a Vespista and what was the most difficult?
“The best moment is undoubtedly still the “Giro d’Italia in Vespa per l’autismo”, because I was able to do some good doing what I like most… travelling on a Vespa! The most difficult moment was when, also on the occasion of the “Giro d’Italia in Vespa per l’autismo”, during the leg that took us to San Giovanni Rotondo (FG) to go to St. Padre Pio, on a long straight at high speed, I blew the rear tyre and did about one hundred metres fishtailing and dodging a coach that was coming toward me from the opposite direction, miraculously managing to keep the Vespa up. When my travel companions pulled my hands off the handlebars, which I was still gripping tightly, I saw from their faces that they were more frightened than I was. We lay the Vespa down to change the tyre and, when I opened the top box to get the tools we needed, I found a holy card and the medallion of St. Padre Pio that our mechanic, Nicola Lotito, had put there to protect us… it could have happened anywhere along the 7,300 km but it happened right there under the watchful eye of St. Padre Pio and, miraculously, I came out of it without a scratch… We looked at one another and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried like a baby.” Thank you, Francesco, for sharing your thrills and all the best to Guendalina!
SIMONE BORGHINI: THE RECORD-SETTING VESPISTA-PHOTOGRAPHER. THE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS OF FRANCESCO MURONI AT THE PIAGGIO MUSEUM ARE BY PHOTOGRAPHER SIMONE BORGHINI WHO WE THANK FOR HIS COLLABORATION. HERE THEY ARE TOGETHER IN THE PHOTO BELOW. SIMONE IS ALSO A SUPER VESPISTA: IN THE LAST TEN YEARS, HE HAS PARTICIPATED IN MORE THAN 100 NATIONAL RALLIES AND 8 VESPA WORLD DAYS ASTRIDE HIS VESPA GTS, TAKING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND TRAVELLING MORE THAN 100 THOUSAND KILOMETRES. HIS SPECIALITY: HE IS ON A CONSTANT QUEST FOR SHOTS FROM ORIGINAL AND SPECTACULAR POINTS OF VIEW, EVEN PLACING HIS CAMERA ON HIS SHOES OR FASTENING IT TO THE VESPA WITH MILLED ALUMINIUM BRACKETS MADE BY HIM. HE IS ONE OF A KIND! HE IS HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER BY VESPISTI DURING EVENTS TO GUARANTEE MEMORABLE SHOTS OF THEIR BELOVED VESPAS.
Simone Borghini-Instagram: @photoinvespa; web: simoneborghini.com