Any day where I get to check an item off my travel bucket list is my favorite kind of day and riding a Vespa in Italy was in my top 5! I’d wanted to go to Italy for as long as I can remember and there I finally was, halfway through my trip and headed out of the city bustle in Florence for the Tuscan hills and an amazing day of riding a Vespa (well technically mine was some other scooter brand – but there were Vespas involved!).
As always, I had done all the research about which company was the best to go with. I’d debated doing a bike tour versus a Vespa tour and finally zeroed in on Tuscany Vespa Tours. Since riding a Vespa in Italy was something on my bucket list it was a bit of a no-brainer to choose that over the bike option despite my love of bike tours. I’m oh so glad I did because it turned out that the bike tour followed a very similar path to the one that we had and it included a lot of hills – all of which I’m glad I got to motor up instead of pedal up!
And to be completely transparent, Tuscany Vespa Tours ended up giving me a free tour in exchange for a review of their service. However, if I ever go back to Florence I’ll be happy to pay to do the tour again since it’s an amazing experience!
The tour starts at their facility in the central part of Florence. It was so close to my Airbnb that I was able to walk there instead of taking any public transportation. After checking everyone in they lead you to a couple of vans where they drive both groups (Vespas and bikes) out to the countryside. Even though this was a less glamorous part of the whole experience I actually really enjoyed seeing more of Florence as we drove out of it and how the scenery changed as we got out into the countryside. Our guide was fun to chat with and the other people taking the tour were friendly and talkative so the initial feel of the group was great right from the start.
The day starts out at a 12th century castle with a tour of the winery and a trip to the roof for a 360 degree view of all the vineyards. It’s the classic Tuscany experience that you see in movies. You also get a tasting of the wine and olive oil that was made on property. Despite not being much of a wine person I really enjoyed the wine! Now that I’ve tasted local wine in both Italy and Napa Valley (California) I feel like I’ve gotten quite familiar with what amazing wine can be like and I’m realizing that maybe the reason I never liked wine was because I’d only ever tried cheap wine. Hmm. Both a good and bad discovery!
The Real Fun
After a short time at the castle the real fun begins and we split off into the Vespa group and the bike group. The Vespa group is always fairly small as there’s a limited number of scooters available. On this day there were only five of us in addition to our guide. They start out by giving a quick overview of how to ride the scooter and then we all practiced in the parking lot until our guide felt that we were all ready to go.
If you’re worried about whether or not you can handle riding a Vespa my advice would be to give it a try. It’s really not very hard at all. If you’re completely scared of doing it yourself then you can pay a little bit less and ride behind someone else (assuming you have someone else going with you). There’s also the possibility of riding with the guide. Of the five of us, three were able to drive with no problems at all and two of us took some more practice in the parking lot before we were good to go. The guide eventually decided that the other person who was struggling would be better of riding and had her go with her boyfriend instead.
Like I said, if you’re unsure I’d say give it a go. Most of the driving is done on open roads in the countryside with little traffic. The few times we were on roads that had other vehicles it was very brief and easy to deal with.
Once we were all practiced and ready to go we were off!
We drove through the countryside with a couple of stops for pictures. Naturally our guide new the best vantage points to stop at for amazing pictures and was more than happy to take tons of pictures for us. At one of the stops we came across the bikers who were following a similar but slightly different path. You can see them in the back of this picture:
Something that I really enjoyed was that at lunch we all came together for lunch. It was fun to get to meet some of the people in the biking group and chat with them at lunch. It turned out that almost everyone there was either headed to Cinque Terre next or had just been there so it was fun to talk about travel plans with everyone.
And oh the food! Lunch was at a cute little family owned restaurant and things were served “family style” which was amazing because then you could have a taste of everything. I believe they brought out three or four different pasta dishes and I had some of the best pesto that I’ve ever had in my life. Scratch that, it was the best pesto I’ve ever had in my life! And of course there was wine and bread and everyone had their choice of dessert. The meal is included as part of the tour and I’m so glad that it was because it ended up being one of my favorite meals of the entire trip.
After lunch it was back to the Vespas for more driving around. There was a hill right after lunch that we all (bikes and Vespas) had to go up and I can’t even tell you how happy I was that I was on a Vespa and not on a bike. Most of the bikers were troopers and made it up but they had the option of putting your bike on a trailer and riding the van up the hill if you wanted to. From what I heard later the rest of their route was fairly flat after that but I’m still glad I was in the Vespa. This wasn’t the hill the bikers went up but it was one of the incline sections that the Vespas did that the bikers did not:
We covered so much ground and saw Italy as I always picture it – Tuscan hills and vineyards and just amazing beauty everywhere you look. On the Vespas we were able to cover more ground and go up and over all the hills and just enjoy the experience of driving around. It was exactly what I always imaged when I thought about it as a bucket list item.
At the end of my trip around Italy I was able to look back on that day and easily pinpoint it as my favorite day of the trip. From the major crossing off a bucket list to enjoying being outdoors it was just a perfect day. If I ever make it back to Florence again I plan on doing the same tour!