ARTICLE BY FEDERICO UBBIALI, 21, FROM PEDRENGO (BERGAMO, ITALY), WITH SPLENDID PHOTOS. A FAMILY OF TRUE VESPA LOVERS.
“Bergamo, Saturday 14 July 2018, 9 a.m., after a quick stop at a petrol station, my brother Devid and I are ready to set off for a week-end on our Vespa scooters. My two-wheeler is a 125 LX from 2008 nicknamed ‘Cucciola’ [puppy], because of its low displacement, but also because I’m so fond of it. Its second name is ‘fearless’ because I’ve trained it to leave the city streets behind and go for longer rides. For just over a year, Cucciola has been sharing the garage with an older sister, a beautiful black Vespa 300 GTS Super, which is surprisingly nippy. The Vespas have been loaded up, we’ve got fuel (and a 2.5 litre tank as a precaution) and we can’t wait to leave. We ride a few miles on country roads, go through Aprica and reach Bormio, where we stop for a break.
Fuel top-up at Lake Bianco, on the Gavia (Brescia).
Unaware of what lies ahead, we start off for the Gavia pass … the road gets steeper, motorbikes overtake me, but I carry on regardless, trying to follow my brother on the larger Vespa. As we ascend, the speed dial drops, 50, 40, 30 km/h, but this gives me the chance to savour a magnificent, increasingly captivating uncontaminated panorama. The Italian singer Gianni Morandi was right when he sang: how hard the climb is, one in a thousand make it … and perhaps I’m the one he was talking about!
It’s one o’clock when I triumphantly reach the top of the mountain, and with the same carefree attitude I had when I overtook bicycles on the ascent, I park my scooter next to the motorbikes, attracting unbelieving looks from their owners. A pause to eat and to top up the tank, then we head off for the Stelvio. A descent, a new ascent, but with less difficulty this time.
A break for the Vespa riders: Casa Cantoniera, Stelvio Pass (Bolzano).
After a few bends, the sun disappears and it begins to rain, but my brother and I with our waterproofs are ready for anything and nothing will stop us; we reach the top of the Stelvio, where a photo with our Vespa scooters by the “Stelvio Pass 2758 m asl” sign is de rigueur.
Left, Federico Ubbiali, right, brother Devid at the Stelvio Pass, their destination.
We have already covered a lot of road, but we want to reach Lake Resia. We continue our journey, going down on the other side of the mountain. Each bend provides a wonderful view, encouraging us to get out our camera and immortalise those moments.
Hairpin bends at the Stelvio Pass, into Switzerland.
It’s getting late and we decide not to make any more stops. By 7 p.m. we reach Lake Resia, with its famous church tower rising from the water … actually it’s not like that, because construction work is underway, but no matter, we’ve ridden so far to get here, so we take another photo.
Lake Resia (Bolzano).
Time to go back to the Stelvio and have supper in the mountain refuge. It will soon be dark and we ride back tired but happy. I feel like Richard Hammond in one of his exhausting resistance trials on Top Gear, but our scooters continue to behave well, proving how truly reliable they are. At the 20th bend I decide to stop to give Cucciola a rest, I lift the saddle and take out the storage compartment to let the air get into the engine, taking the opportunity to warm up my hands, which were cold and wet from the rain. With the same satisfaction as if we were reaching the finish line of a race, we get back to the Stelvio; it’s dark, 9.15 p.m., and at last we can enjoy a supper we certainly deserve.
I couldn’t have wanted more: I could eat, I was in good company and the hospitable refuge managers then offered me a glass of limoncello liqueur to celebrate my 21st birthday! Ah, perhaps I didn’t say, the Vespa ride was a present for my birthday. Pleased with our day, we went to bed. Perhaps our scooters had already been resting for a while, or perhaps they were still gossiping about us; I could imagine Cucciola complaining about the day’s exertions, but she had only to be grateful that she had come so far.
The next morning, the Stelvio is shrouded in mysterious white clouds, we can’t even see our scooters, but they’re waiting for us to begin the ride home. I turn the ignition, the engine is cold, but a touch of gas and it starts straightaway.
We get to Livigno fairly quickly in the morning, by now my Vespa is accustomed to much tougher ascents! The weekend ends with rain, a downpour, but that’s part of the adventure too.
After almost 600 km in just two days, our Vespa scooters, which have seen a mechanic only for the usual services, have demonstrated their reliability, and every day – whether you’re using them to go to a university lecture, to go to work or for an outing – they pay stylish homage to the legendary Vespa 150 GL owned by my grandfather, our family’s first Vespa Lover.”
Text Federico Ubbiali. Photos Federico and Devid Ubbiali.