Yesterday when we were getting our bearings in Pisa I stumbled across a poster advertising the Vespa museum. (I literally stumbled. The pavements here could challenge Sofia and Bruges). I love Vespas. I used to have one, but ultimately it was impractical. Forgive me if I have said this before (Matt Cherry will tell me. He has already cross referenced last nights blog with my previous ones and pointed out a factual aerror) but bikes and scooters just work better on the continent.
Let me explain. When we were in Vienna last year I observed a young lady, dressed smartly, who came out of her office, popped up onto her bike which was chained to a tree and cycled off. (I think she must have unlocked it at some point. I’m sure she didn’t drag a tree behind her). In the UK when ladies in my office get ready to cycle home it seems to take 15 minutes for them to get changed only for them to appear wearing unflatteringly tight leggings, baggy shorts, a LOT of Hi-Vis, a helmet and they are usually carrying panniers the size of a small filing cabinet (again, usually hi-vis).
The same goes for scooters. Here they just pop on an open faced helmet and pop off down to the shops or cafe or bar. They leave the scooter outside and pop back on it when they are finished. When I had a scooter, at this time of year, it involved me donning boots, waterproof trousers, a leather jacket, balaclava, full face helmet and gloves. I would have to unchain it, push it out of the garden, start it off and then do battle on East Lancs Road with lorries and boy racers, ending up with a slalom along Salford Crescent through the stationery traffic until I eventually arrived, frozen to the bone at work. As I say, not practical.
The museum was one stop away on the train. We dutifully all walked up to the ticket office and I began my best Italian sign language by sticking 4 fingers up saying “quatro” slightly too slowly so that it ended up sounding incredibly patronising, and showing him the station name on my train app (which is German. That went down well). “One way or return?” he replied in perfect English. Ok, lets continue in English then. After a bit of tapping he began printing out our tickets. I am used to the credit card sized train tickets we get at home, but these were like the old fashioned airline boarding passes. After what felt like an eternity had finally printed out a small forest’s worth of tickets. He then said “and now the returns”. Good job we had some time to kill.
We arrived at Pontedera-Casciana about 15 minutes later. You do get the impression that the only employer in this town is Piaggio. You walk out of the station on one side and there is a town; on the other side of the tracks, a whopping great big factory. We walked along to the museum entrance. In the process Clyde encountered a Ninja piece of dog muck which was hiding under a leaf waiting for an unsuspecting person to tread on it, which Clyde dutifully did. If you ever need a reason not to wear a pair of walking shoes with a deep cleated soul, then the risk of standing in dog muck is as good a reason as any. Clyde has spent most of the day trying to get that shoe clean and even now I can still smell traces of it. It was pungent.
Anyway, I digress. The museum was fabulous (and free). The scooters were gorgeous. Some variations were totally bizarre (such as the version which seemed to have rocket launcher built into it) and the Gilera collection of racing bikes was great, especially the picture of a very young Valentino Rossi riding one. As with all museums, we exited via the gift shop and for all of those who really know me, yes I did buy a badge. Well it would be rude not too wouldn’t it?