Sealing a two-wheeled Roman tour with a kiss
ROME - What better way to enjoy the Eternal City than as the Romans do, darting through the traffic, with the wind blowing through your hair on the classic Italian mode of transport: the Vespa. As I arrived at one of Bici&Baci’s three shops in Rome, I was greeted by my tour guides for the morning, Gabriele and Alexander, and met the others on my tour. As I waited for my helmet, I had a browse around the shop, which boasts an impressive collection of vintage Vespas. They also design their own merchandise, from t-shirts to mugs, with vibrant colours and patterns to match their brand.
The first step was choosing a Vespa - a hard choice, given that there were several dozen parked in front of the shop. Each one was unique, with several being hand painted by local artists. I plumped for a silver 125 lx model with green, yellow and blue stripes on the sides.
We set off, and straight away it was easy to understand why the Italians go for Vespas. Easy to ride, you can breeze through Rome without a care in the world, with the wind to keep you cool. You can squeeze through the narrowest of streets, but without tiring yourself out and walking all day.
Our first stop was the second Bici&Baci shop. Here, there was even a museum dedicated to Vespa, owner Claudio’s personal collection. There was also a video playing of a song he himself had written about his love for the Vespa. “Claudio has such a passion about the Vespa. And he loves his city.” gushed Gabriele. After a couple of photos, it was back on the bike towards the Colosseum.
Bici&Baci are able to tailor your tour to your interests. Because we were all fans of cinema, our guide Alexander, as well as talk about the Colosseum, showed us one of the spots where Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn starred in Roman Holiday. The name of the company, literally "Bicycles and Kisses" ties in seamlessly with the romantic idea of riding around the Eternal City with your loved one. We recreated the classic photos with our very own Vespas, then hopped back on and headed for the Circo Massimo and the Roman Baths. Here, Alexander explained the origins of the word “spa” (“Salus per aquam”, or health through water) and said that this was where the first ever bikinis were worn.
The magic of a Vespa tour is that you can get anywhere easily. The Appian Way is just outside the centre of Rome, and so most walking tours do not offer it in their itineraries. On a Vespa, however, you just zoom down the Via di Porta San Sebastiano until you reach it. We stopped at the ancient city gate to climb the tower and take in the breathtaking views of Rome and the surrounding countryside, before driving down one of Ancient Rome’s most important, and beautiful, roads.
Next, we went along the ancient city walls back into the centre, through the charming streets of Trastevere. Here we stopped for a well-deserved (complimentary) coffee and pastry before going up to the Fonte Acqua Paola on the Giannicolo hill, which boasts some of the best views of Rome. The marble used for the fountain was taken from the Colosseum, explained Alexander, and incidentally, it is featured both in James Bond movie Spectre and Oscar-winning Italian film The Great Beauty.
Heading along the river, and over the Ponte Mazzini, our last stops were the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona. Rome’s breathtaking sites never cease to amaze, but the best part of this tour was feeling like a real Roman, smugly dodging traffic and truly feeling at one with the city. A Vespa tour is highly recommended to anyone who wants to experience the capital a little differently, either by holding on to your personal guide, or by taking to the reins yourself on a Roman adventure.
More information can be found at http://www.bicibaci.com/en