5 minutes. 5 whole minutes.
In that time I took one teensy little spin around a parking lot on the outskirts of Florence, Italy. This supposedly “qualified” me to operate a Vespa for the remainder of the day. I rarely drive a car stateside let alone having ever operated a bulky “scooter” that doesn’t seem to want to turn except in wide arcs that take you into on-coming traffic.
All my images of looking cool while riding a Vespa, holding a cappuccino, and exclaiming “ciao” (Eddie Izzard fans can appreciate this) were pathetically shattered in the ensuing 5 minutes following my qualifying ride. A hairpin turn (please recall my comment above about scooters and turning), a poorly kept Tuscan road, a vain attempt to avoid heading straight into an ancient Italian rock wall, and an unfortunate gust of gravity were enough to have me kissing the pavement.
My body was relatively unscathed, but my pride was hemorrhaging. For a time I told the story as, “so I was expertly riding my Vespa and looking effortlessly Italian cool (ciao!) when TUSCAN NINJA TERRORISTS(!!!) jumped out from behind an ancient Italian rock wall and I was forced to single handedly battle them!”
It was, of course, a woefully transparent fabrication of my finesse-less Vespa operating skills, but who doesn’t use a little bit of self-deprecating humor to try to move past an exceedingly embarrassing point in a story? For the remainder of the day, the gorgeous Tuscan country-side passed me by mostly unnoticed as I only had eyes for the road and an overwhelming desire to survive live.
By the way, do you know what is HUGE when you’re driving a Vespa and fear for your life? A SMART CAR!!! A litany of curse words spewed forth from under my helmet when one of those bad boys passed me.
Tuscany is stunningly gorgeous (what little I remember seeing) and I recommend everyone visit if they have a chance. JUST NOT ON A VESPA! As I always like to say when something harrowing like this happens to me, as long as no one ended up in the hospital or jail, if a good story comes out of it, then all is well. Of course, when I laid down to sleep that night, having thankfully survived the tour, all I could see when I closed my eyes were Tuscan roads and humongous smart-cars. I needed two cappuccinos the next morning.