That first moment you flip the ignition in the Vespa you just signed for. When that familiar purr vibrates from under your seat, to indicate that adventure with a capital A lies just behind your front wheel. That’s the sweet life.
Navigating out of the madness of Naples. Dodging the traffic that drifts around her arteries like molasses, zipping ahead until you turn left on the ocean drive. A road that seems to lure you in, getting you used to brakes and the feel of the bike beneath your feet.
The freedom to decide where to stop for your first coffee. And if it is in Torro del Greco, you’d do well to order more than one coffee as every cup comes with a different complimentary pastry that explodes in your mouth, while you stare at Vesuvius, towering menacingly on the horizon where you’re headed.
THE ANCIENT RUINS
Stumbling out of the ancient ruins of Pompeii, hungry and thirsty, into the first pizzeria you can find outside the gate, and discovering to your surprise that it is not a tourist trap. Delicious, inexpensive and served with a broad warm smile that you’ll come to know as a trademark of the region.
A CELESTIAL FILMMAKER
Getting your first glimpse of the Amalfi coast, with the sun over your right shoulder – as if choreographed by a celestial filmmaker – the soft light bouncing off the cliffs that tower above the bright cool Mediterranean Sea. As you stop to take it in, you will see the road stretching into the distance and begin to yearn for the next day. Because that’s where you’re going. You, and your Vespa.
THE BEST GELATO
Following the advice of your guide that pops up on your phone – to make a pit stop in Sorrento and take hold of the best gelato you will ever taste. As the creamy sweet goodness is heaped onto your cone, you look around at the ceiling and walls, covered in photographs of the most famous faces of the world of sport, cinema and royalty, enjoying their gelato on the same spot where you’re standing. That is the sweet life
Riding up into the hills, as dusk begins to gather in the sky, parking your trusty steed with the other Vespetti, having dinner and drinks on the terrace, whilst watching the Earth’s shadow eating the moon – almost exactly 50 years after Armstrong and Aldrin made their famous small step off the ladder of the Eagle.
EVEN MORE BREATHTAKING SIGHT
Waking up early, and heading towards Salerno. With the ocean breeze cooling your face as you lean into the sharp bends high above the sea, you keep stopping to take more pictures. Every turn, every hairpin bend, delivers an even more breathtaking sight.
TAKE IT ALL IN
To take it all in as you zip past long lines of parked cars, on your little scooter, getting ahead and letting you take it all in at your own pace. Allowing you to stop where ever you like – to take a plunge into the clear blue sea. To let all your troubles drift off with the tides. That is the sweet life
BELLS START TOLLING
Race towards Salerno as the sun sets on your second day. It is to round a corner and cross a bridge into Vietri sul Mare just as the bells start tolling in the local church tower. The clang, clang, welcoming you and waving you farewell as you leave the town behind and drop into Salerno – where there is just enough time to check in, shower and head back out with the rest of the group to get some dinner.
Trail the other Vespas through the evening traffic and rounding into a secluded square where you sit down for a sumptuous feast of local fare, wine and scintillating conversation.
HUG THE PROPRIETOR
Turn away from the ocean on the third day and ride through the majesty of the Parco Regionale Monti Picentini. It is to climb hundreds of meters into the air through the mountain pass and then to drop back down towards Bagnoli Irpino and to stop just outside the town to listen to the cows grazing. You switch off. It is to remove your helmet and listen to the soft wind and the clinging of their bells as they pluck off the sweet green sprouts. To head off, so you start up again and find the other Vespa’s cooling down in the shade of a plate of pine trees. You sit down to lunch and eat a four-course meal so good that at the end – you want to hug the proprietor — all for just €10. That is the sweet life
GAPING MOUTH OF THE VOLCANO
On the last day – to head back to Naples, via Vesuvius. The Vespa takes you almost to the top, past the highest parking for cars. You pass throngs of tourists walking down as you effortlessly climb up to the open, gaping mouth of the volcano. You hike up the last kilometre or so, your shoes gripping on the soil that looks like it was made yesterday. On top, you peak a look down into the belly of the beast. Steam rises from a few small vents in its sides. This mountain is alive, but so are you. So, you drink at the moment and head back down to ride the final leg.
As you descend the side of this mountain, your heart is heavy but full. There is not much time to think, because you are joining up with the madness of Friday evening Naples traffic. You find yourself slowing down, trying to eke out one more moment of freedom on the back of the bike that’s taken you on a trip of a lifetime.
After 400 km or so, you’re back where you started. But you’ve gone so much further.
That is the sweet life.
Leon, Larissa, Edrean & Tertia
The Vespa Trip 2019 – Amalfi Coast