Conquering Milan On A Vespa: My Scooter Trip Through Northern Italy

We hopped on our Vespa, we had finally made it. For that night, we were the kings of Milan

As many of you may know, Northern Italy is studded with picturesque cities and villages. One example is Mantua, which has been named a UNESCO world heritage site for its charming Renaissance cityscape. Visiting these cities is surely a beautiful experience, as you’ll find yourself surrounded by art, eye-catching architecture and luxurious nature. However, traveling from one city to another is the best part of it all. And in this article I will tell you about the the most fantastic trip I have ever made in my life.

One day, a friend of mine and I were in Peschiera, a town at the southern end of Lake Garda, Italy’s biggest stretch of water. It was sometime in March, and the day was perfect: no clouds in the sky, and a cool breeze blew from the North. We happened to be in town to catch a train to Milan to attend a music event that same night. Since we were already there, we decided to chill at the lake that morning, and to head to Milan in the late afternoon.

As we sat on a bench, smoking a cigarette and telling each other funny things, I had an epiphany. Suddenly the figure of Giorgio Bettinelli crossed my mind. For those of you who might not know who I am talking about, he is a former song-writer, and he has spent his life traveling around the world on a Vespa scooter. On those very two-wheels he crossed almost each and every country of planet Earth, cruising from Australia to Yemen, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. And, most importantly, he is one of my greatest idols.

During my first year at university, I read Bettinelli’s book titled In Vespa, in which he recounts his first journey from Rome to Saigon, a Vietnamese city also known as Ho Chi Minh City. This book truly astonished me. From that moment I have always been dreaming about going somewhere with my own scooter, even just for a bunch of kilometers.

Since Milan is 137 kilometers away from Peschiera, I told to my friend: “What about if we went to Milan by scooter? The GPS says it’s a three-hour drive trough provincial roads. If we leave now, we’ll be in Milan before dinner.” My friend looked at me for a moment, but then he said smiling: “Why not? Let’s do it.”

We jumped on my rickety KYMCO scooter and headed West. Few kilometers later, we crossed the first border: we had left the Veneto region behind our shoulders, and we just entered Lombardia, as we approached Sirmione del Garda. We still had a long way to go, but this was already a first step. The initial 30 kilometers of our trip unveiled a stunning panorama: smooth hills embraced two wonderful villages, Lonato del Garda and Montichiari. Their perched castles and their blue-domed churches pierced the sky, as we looked upon the horizon.

After we passed these two cities, the landscape turned totally flat: green fields run as far as the eye could see. We had entered the Po valley, the Boot’s largest plain that covers almost all the Northern regions. My friend and I were sharing a pair headphones, each one of us wearing an ear bud, and the jazz and rock music playlist we were listening to was just perfect for that moment.

Some 50 kilometers were under our belt, and we decided to stop at a gas station near Offlaga. If you are wondering why this name might sound familiar to you, it’s because an Italian electronic band, namely Offlaga Disco Pax, was named after this little village due to its strange pronunciation.

We got off our Vespa and stretched our legs. We downed two Espresso coffees, and we were ready to go back on the road. We had covered already half of our way, and we were really happy about that.

The next big village was Orzinuovi, and when we passed it, I saw on my left another big town. Not too far away I could see a wide round, red-bricked church standing out. I was asking myself to which city that solemn building belonged to, when suddenly it came to my mind: it was Crema, the birthplace of Giorgio Bettinelli.

This vision filled both my mind and my heart with joy. I realized that I was on some sort of pilgrimage, and it felt as if, there and then, I was saluting a person who had taught me to take life in a different way — I had to focus less on problems and be inspired by more fantasy.

With this in mind we arrived at the borders of Milan’s southern outskirts. The landscape started to change: massive industrial buildings started to appear in the distance, and they were all surrounded by vast emerald parks. That was Metanopoli, a city built in 1952 by ENI (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi), the national energy company, for its countless employees.

After we passed the suburb, we crossed a huge overpass. Although it was almost 7 pm and the sky was fading to dark, some lights of the sunset were still lighting up the sky.

The sight of the skyscrapers of Milan’s city center overwhelmed my friend and I with an incredible sensation. Four hours after we hopped on our Vespa, we had finally made it. For that night, we were the kings of Milan.