Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Vroom with a view – In search of Italy’s Dolce Vita on a ’61 Vespa by Peter Moore

The best things in this book are the title, the map on page 11 and the Prologue. The rest of the volume is taken up by the description of Peter Moore’s travels along some of the more touristy attractions of northwest Italy, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the enormous amount of repetitions on the theme that the author feels compelled to stick in. After a while you’ll become more and more bored (and irritated) by the continuous references to Dean Martin, Marcello Mastronianni, the Dolce Vita, and how cool it is to travel around Italy on a ’61 Vespa.

When you read a travelogue, you’d like to find information on the place visited, but above all, it should make you feel that you’d like to travel around with the author. In this case, I have to admit that I was left with the sensation that that would be quite a tedious experience (my sympathy to poor girlfriend Sally who had to). Moore is enthusiastic and he is curious as a monkey about things, which are indeed good attributes for a traveller, but he also comes across as a tad naïve, full of preconceptions and ready-made ideas about how things are or should be. In a way, he likes to 'go off the beaten track’, but at the same time he is the happiest when things are exactly as he had envisaged them!

Take the passage through the Apennines, from Lombardy down to Liguria, when he cuts through the Piacenza province. He refers to Emilia Romagna and ironically says that the region is “touted as the 'new Tuscany’”, then dives into a description of the agricultural and pig-farming virtues of the area, to demonstrate how ridiculous the thought would be even to compare the two. Currently, the 'new Tuscany’s are Umbria, Sicily, Marche, in this order: the 'new Tuscany’ is everywhere you can find British and American tourists travelling around, renting villas, drinking imported Chianti at sunset. Perhaps the fact that low-fare airlines with their loads of camera-equipped passengers have been spotted landing in several of Emilia Romagna’s airports make it the 'new Tuscany’. In that case we suggest Mr Moore to expand his route south of Piacenza (the most northern province of region…).

The trip does touch places and topics that are slightly more original than your average book on Italian holidays, yet it is disappointing that the author ends up on the usual route which is nowadays the most common itinerary in Italy: Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Rome. The diversions are mostly caused by the actual scooter on which the author travels and its mechanical failures, which, sometimes involuntarily, give him the possibility to explore and experiment, and treat us to a glance of 'real Italy’. Nevertheless, Moore manages to weaken each chapter with the endless joke of the Kinder egg surprise toy and the worn out reiteration of how cool it is to travel around Italy on a ’61 Vespa …

One last advice: do not learn any Italian from the book! If, after the loving descriptions of the scooter and the romantic world it represents, you feel compelled to look for one to buy yourself, avoid walking into a shop and asking for a Vesperino, as Moore christens the junior version, as you may end up with a copy of the religious breviary (Vespers, or Evensong, is the Church’s evening prayer); what teenagers coolly drive in Italy is a Vespino!

Vroom with a View: In Search of Italy’s Dolce Vita on a ’61 Vespa is published by Bantam Books

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