Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Genre: Travel, Nonfiction
Author:Peter Moore

Traveling and reading are two of my favorite activities. So reading about traveling is up there in my fave things to do. It also inspires me to write about my travels, reminds me not to lose the opportunity to capture the experiences, emotions, and memories of the moment.

Back to this book. Peter Moore fulfills a childhood dream of going around Italy on a 40 year old Vespa on his 40th birthday. Fueled by images of Sophia Loren and Roman Holiday, and images of how cool he would look and feel, he got busy making his dream happen by purchasing a Vespa through ebay and then flying off to Milan to start his Italian holiday.

Peter straddles Sophia - yeah, that sounds pornish, but not if Sophia is his scooter's name. And he's off to an adventure without an agenda except to see Italy outside the confines of an enclosed vehicle. To feel the wind on his face and the sun on his skin and the little insects smashing against his chest. He meets interesting people, sees sights, and stays in off-the-beaten-track places he most likely would not find if he were traveling in a tour bus or any 4-wheeled vehicle.

His Sophia is an intrinsic part of his travels as her moods dictate how long they will stay in a particular place as different mechanics work out the issues of a 40-year-old Vespa. Everywhere, the Italians are drawn to Sophia and Peter's romantic story; many times he gets special treatment, freebies, and price cuts because people are charmed by his Vespa story.

Peter takes the reader through Milan, Lucca, Tuscany, Rome, and a host of little-known places, visiting wineries, festivals, staying at villas, hostel and farms, and a few times on the floor or the Vespa machine shop. How I wish there were pictures to go with the words, but Peter's narration sufficiently conjures visuals of the places, food, and characters in this lovely journey.

I love his description of buying provisions (bread, cheeses, wine, olives, ham, fruits) hanging his shopping bag on that built-in bag-holder hook that Vespa models have, and then eating anywhere he wants - in a piazza or a meadow or a ruined abbey. How I'd love to do that too.

Peter talks about how Benito Mussolini's lingering an extra day at Lake Como spelled his downfall and the author says that the beauty of the lake must have made it worth the pain. Driving a temperamental Vespa can sometimes be a painful process too, but obviously, it is well worth the pain.