Friday, June 11, 2010

Scooter Reality

After 3000 km and an entire winter's experience behind me, I now get the full thrill of having a scooter to ride around Padua.

Feeling cool air rush over your skin while the sun beats down is a great summer benefit that a moped provides. I can also dart past long lines of cars stuck waiting at city traffic lights. My skinny transport machine allows me to stealthily weave in and out of slow traffic, too. Driving becomes a faster and cooler pursuit with a scooter. The hair that sticks out of the bottom of my helmet jumps around in a frenetic dance.

We bought our first moped in October. Too bad it was the beginning of the cold and rainy season.

The winds and rain can really pound, especially when going 40 mph. I had never felt a raindrop hurt before having to travel to some work locations outside of town during heavy showers. The innocent water turned aggressive as it crashed against my cheeks at near-freezing temps. Many Italians don't even use their scooters during the winter because of the chill factor and inconvenience but since ours was new, we just had to start using it! For next winter, I will be prepared with a full face helmet. The "zip" version (as they call it in Italian: open face, in English) I currently have is convenient because it fits under the sella (seat), which is necessary when the bauletto (carrier) is filled by my husband's helmet. This is necessary when we ride around together. However, the open face helmet only covers half of your head. Air easily whips under the visor and rips across your cheeks, nose and chin. What I need to cover my head completely is called integrale in Italian.

I am lucky that I already had rainproof alpine outer-clothing. That apparel now doubles as urban rain gear for the moped: jacket, pants and gloves.

During the first few months, I also had to get used to pushing around the weight of the scooter: 115 kg (250 lbs). Parking it, reversing, and moving it when the engine is off are typical moments when you have to manoeuvre its full weight. The bike even fell a couple of times, luckily on grass, while I was getting the hang of shifting its mass.

As for other aspects of driving, it can get a bit dangerous to do so when the schools let out. All the teenage drivers hit the roads at the same time with "Fast and Furious" on their minds. You risk getting swarmed by them, your machine enveloped in a madly nervous buzzing cloud of other scooters.

Having a moped makes it now easy for my husband and I to get into the downtown city for a night out, a single drink or a quick shopping jaunt. We used to have to park the car and walk about 10 minutes to get to our usual haunts. Now we can park literally in front of them.

My teenage students seem to have a new respect for me, the American who now rides a moped like them. They were so cute when they saw me with it for the first time. They sounded like their parents when they said, "Be careful."

In some ways, you're not completely Italianized until you've driven a scooter in Italy. And this, I have finally tasted over a decade after arriving here.

A dear picture of me from my first day with the brand new bike in October:


  1. That's a lovely scoots, Irene. And your students are right - do be careful, especially of cars whose drivers may not see you, or the odd aggressive driver who will challenge you. Scootering is de rigeur in Liguria, but we can do it pretty much year round here. Your descriptions of the experience are perfect! Brava!!

  2. Yes, I know about the possible danger. Unfortunately with a moped, even if the car makes the mistake, I will be the one on the asphalt. I am developing new and amazing skills at predicting other driver's movements to avoid possible problems.
    It must be even more fun to drive one in Liguria. Here, the driving is flat but I imagine you've got lots of curves and great landscapes.