Words & Photographs: Christian Giarrizzo
When an absolute scooter purist decides to change the origins of his or her machine, you know it must be done for both the right reasons and in the right way. Scootering reporter Christian Giarrizzo meets such an enthusiast in the heart of Italy, and tells us his story.
One of the most widespread differences between many owners and riders in the world of Vespa and Lambretta falls between the passion of riding and getting many miles under your belt. The other desire is to appreciate the aesthetics and design of the machine.
Most restoration enthusiasts favour the visual exploration, customisation and design of the machine, with many enthusiasts willing to spend days, weeks, months and even years in the pursuit of creating the most beautiful machine. Yet these enthusiasts may not even care to know the amount of kilometres which could be travelled, or to contemplate trips that the same machines could count when out on the road. For my personal and professional interest, I cannot complete less than ten thousand kilometres each year with my ‘Negra’ Vespa.
The last time I was speaking with the mechanic who constructed the engine for my steed (a 225 Polini of which I have published merits and falls in the past) whilst drinking a pint of blond beer, he asked me a strange question: “As a professional scooter journalist and travelling photographer, what is your greatest passion, taking pictures or travelling?” A good question very similar to those like, ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What will you do when you grow up?’ Simple questions, which evoke complicated answers.
After careful reflection I allowed myself to answer. “Both, but not in the same way.” Photography is the ultimate essence of aesthetics; an embrace to the beautiful things of the world, whilst travelling is the vehicle for my photography and I believe that, in my case, one cannot exist without the other.
Sometimes in life, you encounter a real stroke of luck, on this occasion it involved meeting an interesting person and an equally interesting and unique scooter. It is a day of full light when I stop in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy set in my region, Cordovado. The historic centre is nestled by a cobblestone pedestrian street and every wall, from every side you look, is impregnated with history and adorned with colourful plants.
A timeless bracket, whilst only a few kilometres away is one of the border towns between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, Portogruaro, a more industrious city. I stop in the only bar in the town which is characterized by a retro style, as if to announce the unique meeting I’m about to engage.
Sitting under a porch embellished with red bricks and beautiful arches, I take out my notes and the last edition of Scootering. It represents, for me, that I live my life in Italy but am always in constant spiritual struggle… a sort of magnifying glass over the scooter-world beyond the sea, a world in which I cannot actively participate. Unlucky me.
As soon as they will legalize the Vespa motorized rafts, I will ride to the island of the kings more often. Promised, foreign Scooterism, starting from neighbouring Austria or Germany is different from the Italian one, even that Balkan-East presents itself differently, so reading a magazine that documents the enthusiasm of passionate colleagues is like taking a breath of fresh air while walking in the mountains, a relief.
While waiting I recognize, in the distance, what seems to be the sound of a Vespa. As a child with my uncle I played “guess the sound” a challenge to recognize the engine and the model of the car/bike based on the sound you hear, just like in the scene of the film “Gone in 60 seconds” in which “Otto” interrogates his protégé making him listen to a tape.
From the strong compression and the baritone sound of the muffler I expect a large frame with a few tricks to the engine but as soon as I see the form looking over the city gates, I do not believe my eyes… a “Sei Giorni Faro Basso”. I barely have time to observe the machine, before the vehicle disappears from my sight, I immediately leave the coffee inside the cup and all my objects on the bar table and I launch myself in a pursuit hoping to intercept the owner.
I get on the (Negra) Vespa and release the horsepower in order to take chase, but I immediately notice that it’s much harder than expected to catch! If it were an original six-days machine, then it would take just a few twist of the wrist to reach it, but in this case it was immediately obvious that, just after the bend, the rider noticed my intent and perhaps slowed a little?
I gain ground and start to wave frantically, like the wife of a sailor who sees his love returning from the sea. The stop light of the Vespa in front of me lights up and we finally meet. A dazzling smile under a yellow helmet emanates from Eduardo, proud owner of the replica six-day of which today I want to tell you the story.
We go back to the bar just in time before the waiter takes all my belongings and throws them in the trash. What I see, parked in front of me on his side stand, is an original body of “Faro Basso” with upgrades and improvements that are wondrous beyond compare. An additional air intake stands out on the belly of the beast, to prove that the engine power is derived from more powerful origins. The sky is clouded and the air cools by announcing a weather change. Here comes the new coffee and Eduardo’s story begins…
“Christian, I started my scooter journey as an absolute purist: if in my Vespa there were not all the screws that Piaggio had installed at the factory, I would not have liked this, and I would not have cared for the machine”.
This is the classic example of the Italian gathering-mentality mentioned above. “When I was little I wanted the Piaggio” Ciao “so I was disappointed when my parents gave me the Vespa for school merits; I understood later, however, my real advantage over the others because after not too long I was the only cool guy to have the chance – with a Yankee saddle – to carry around the girls”.
I smile and take notes: “From that moment on the Vespa became my obsession, from that moment I started to buy them as if they were keyrings. I was selling them and I was getting back to the next and rarer model: they were the golden years of the scooter market, I still remember someone who was fed up with seeing an abandoned vehicle in their gardens gave it or sold it at an iron price to get rid of it “. Continue Edoardo combing his hair.
“Maybe I’m too egocentric but in those days I was the only one in the district to show up at the scooter rally with an orange Vespa Rally, a punch in the eye for those times of Vespa being owned all in standard colors. Slowly I realized that the market and the company Vespistica of fans was changing, because of red or yellow rallies or particular models which were populating the whole world”.
Edoardo stops, looks me in the eye and resumes: “At that point the idea came. I want to be a jitter, a son of the god of Chaos and I want to introduce myself to the group of scooter fans with a completely original means that at the same time stimulate the modern vs original controversy”.
I refer again to the Italian Vespa purism, in our society we are terrified – perhaps for historical reasons (by totalitarian characterizations, mindful of the failure of fascism) we are the first to stand against dictatorships and extremisms, in the small things however, yet at the same time we are also the most aggravated in rejecting the diversity of people. I often found myself witnessing fierce quarrels about the restoration of some vintage vehicles.
“When I meet some purist”. Edoardo continues, “I like to see his face and to understand how much it is bothering him to see a Faro Basso with all those succulent accessories. The disc brake, and the motor with PX200 base”.
It is certainly not the comfort of the absolute characteristic of Edoardo but what the hell, are we not all crazy in about our beloved scooters? The aesthetic is therefore the basic concept of this Vespa, which winks to all those who want it but cannot, it is in fact a means of over ten thousand “cocuzze” – Melons translated into Italian literal ( Euro).
Edoardo’s luck was in finding the right man for tuning; pity that he had never realized that this person lived in front of his house. “Il Matto” so they call him in the country, because he is intractable and gruff.
“When I proposed to do this work he replied to me with a blasphemy saying if I had nothing else to do but to waste time.”
Sometimes we are too much interested in the model or in the specs of our beloved scooters, I do understand it but Edoardo is not the case. He doesn’t have any clue about this stuff, he want’s just to get in his beauty and leave the house from time to time. What can I say about this? Luckily the world is not the same for all of us.
As soon as I try to leave the bar table and thank my lucky encounter – having asked 12 times about what type of motor the “Sei Giorni” has inside, or if there is anything very special stored behind the panels except the remarkable beauty.
Edoardo’s voice, a little romantic, confides. “Her name is Camilla, just like my little baby. Maybe, one day, she will understand how crazy was her father, and she will enjoy smiling at the past as a good bond “. Never underestimate the Italian’s heart. True.
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