Living In Italy
Travel In Italy
How to Rent a Vespa in Italy
Ok, so as discussed on our recent podcast, those who know me are convinced someday I will meet my demise on a Vespa in Italy. But don’t let that discourage you from renting a Vespa in Italy during your next vacation. There are few better ways to see the true heart of this romantic country. If you rent a Vespa in Italy, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. One time when I landed in Palermo, they brought me the Vespa to the airport! It can’t get any easier than that. So here’s our “expert” guide on how to rent a Vespa in Italy (we will say nothing about how to do so safely, because that’s not exactly my strong suit).
Step 1 to Rent a Vepsa in Italy: Determine your rental location
The first step to renting a Vespa in Italy is to choose your rental location. Vespa rentals can be found throughout Italy in most major cities such as Rome, Florence, and Milan. Choose a reputable rental company and make sure to read the rental terms carefully before booking. If you’ve heard horror stories about renting a car in Italy, you’ll know it’s not uncommon for “deals” to turn into very expensive propositions when you arrive. This bad business practice is not as common with Vespa rentals, but still make sure you ask for all costs before you agree.
As to what is the best location, make it convenient. Look for something that’s easy to pick up and drop off, either near your hotel, the train station or as I mentioned in Palermo, right there at the airport.
Step 2: Choose Your Vespa Model
Once you have decided on your rental location, the next step is to choose your Vespa model. Are you traveling alone or with a partner? Are you planning on a long road trip or a short day trip? How skilled of a driver are you?
For example, to ride around any town on a simple day trip, a 100 or 150 is fine. They are lighter, easier to handle and provide sufficient power for local roads. But if you’re going exploring as I often do, like through the hillsides of Toscana and out to the coast or all over the island of Sicily, you’ll need more power for the larger roads. Ask for a 300. It’s pretty heavy, which on a big windy highway you’ll be grateful for.
If you’re bringing a second person make sure you have sufficient seat space and pegs for their feet.
Also, don’t forget you have to account for whatever bags you have, even if it’s just a backpack and a purse. Vespa’s have seat storage, many have a helmet storage in the back and they have a hook between the driver’s feet to safely store and strap necessary gear.
One time I got the wild impulse to go shopping and forgot I was on a Vespa. I got home with all the packages, but had to leave my feet sticking straight out on top of the many bags. I don’t recommend that (see the video on our instagram!).
Consider these factors to choose the right Vespa model to fit your needs.
Step 3: Check for Required Documents
To rent a Vespa in Italy, you will need a valid driver’s license for the rental company. They typically don’t require other documents like an international driver’s permit, your own insurance or a motorcycle endorsement, but it can vary from place to place. Many are much easier than renting cars, but before you go, ask! Because Vespa rentals are designed for tourists and the vast majority are local ½ day or a day, most rental companies try to make it as easy as possible to rent a Vespa in Italy compared to renting a car.
Ask the question ahead of time and ensure you have all the necessary documentation in order to rent a Vespa in Italy.
Step 4: Inspect the Vespa before Renting
Before renting a Vespa, take some time to inspect it thoroughly. Start it and make sure it starts smoothly. Take a little spin around the parking lot and check both brakes. Vespas tend to be a little jumpy in the steering column, so that’s not a concern, but make sure you’re comfortable. Ask any questions about the bike that you’re not sure of. Vespas have some quirks including having to hold the left brake to start it. Some models won’t start if the leaning kickstand is down, but will if it’s on the big back kickstand.
Make sure the electronic seat opens so you can store things and get gas if needed. And test out the steering column lock (turn it hard to the left and the key hard to the left as well to make sure it can’t be pushed away in a straight line.
Also, check for any existing damage and make sure to inform the rental agency before renting. Taking pictures of the Vespa before renting it is also a good practice.
Step 5: Follow Italian Traffic Rules
Finally, it is essential to adhere to traffic rules while on your Vespa adventure. Always wear a helmet and pay attention to traffic signals and other road signs. It’s not always the best practice to “do as others do” on Vespas. Italian Vespa riders are notoriously aggressive, darting between traffic, using the opposing lane to pass, especially when cars are moving slowly, and even driving the wrong direction of a one-way street. It’s not as dangerous as it sounds, because if you drive a Vespa long enough in Italy, you understand the cadence of it. But when you rent a Vespa in Italy, there is no reason to be aggressive. You’re on vacation. This is a dream experience, so don’t turn it into a nightmare with stupid driving choices.
Also, be aware of roundabouts. They are very common in Italy and if you’re not familiar with them, it can seem like utter chaos! Don’t worry, it all makes sense. Just go slow and be careful and you’ll quickly pick up the rhythm.
Here’s a really pro tip, an absolute must if you ask me: If you have a passenger, have them hold the cell phone with google maps on it! You can’t be distracted looking at the maps, and you probably don’t know exactly where you’re going. They can hold the phone up so you can see it when safe, or just speak directions in your ear. If you have an Apple watch, set it to have the directions come to your watch, which is much safer than looking at a map. And never make a hasty decision. It’s so easy to simply turnaround if you miss a turn (here’s a fun Italian word, “giratine…” It means to wander, or basically be lost but in a fun way. On a Vespa giratine is the best part, if you ask me).
Finally, a word about ZTL in centro historico zones: Cars aren’t permitted to pass into a ZTL zone, and you can be assured a ticket is on its way if you pass into one by mistake. But here again is another reason why it’s awesome to rent a Vespa in Italy: They can go into the ZTLs! They can go most anywhere. Just look for the signs that say Area Perdonale and stay out of those (Pedestrian zones). Parking is pretty much allowed anywhere! So relax, explore and enjoy.
Renting a Vespa in Italy is an incredible way to discover the beauty of the Italian countryside. However, safety and caution should always be a top priority. By following these expert tips, you can explore Italy on a Vespa and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.