Rome has a rich history and vibrant culture that can transport you to a different era. Long before I ever visited Rome, what I knew of the ancient city came from the movies. I’m a classic movie buff, and Roman Holiday, the 1953 romantic comedy, is my favorite film.
The story unfolds as Princess Ann, who, during a visit to Rome, escapes her guardians to explore the city. Enter a handsome newspaper reporter who whisks her away on the back of his Vespa. I’ll never forget the images of iconic landmarks in the eternal city whizzing by as the movie unfolds.
On a recent visit, I found that exploring Rome by Vespa Sidecar Tour can make you feel like you’re living a similar fantasy.
My private Vespa Sidecar Tour was provided by Anantara Palazzo Naiadi as part of a hosted stay at the beautiful hotel. As always, all opinions are my own.
The Vespa Sidecar Tour
The Vespa Sidecar tour offers a unique way to discover the city’s famous landmarks, hidden gems, and picturesque squares. As you motor through the bustling city, you can imagine yourself as Audrey Hepburn’s character, Princess Ann, embarking on her own Roman adventure.
The company’s owner, Luca Di Trapano, explained that the Vespa Sidecar Tour was born in a flash of inspiration after 2 decades of giving tours in Rome. He thought the concept was genius but later learned his idea was 45 years too late.
The makers of the Vespa stopped producing the model equipped with a sidecar in 1968. Not easily deterred, he persevered and brought his dream to reality. Since 2018, Luca has welcomed over 20,000 passengers on board without a single accident. He told me, “It is like having sailed through the streets of Rome with four or five gigantic cruise ships!”
The tours are 3 hours, depending on traffic. The price is 110 euros per person (about $117) on the small group tour (12 guests max). You can take the tour solo as I did or with a companion or group. Trade places halfway through for a new perspective. A private tour’s price depends on the number of guests.
Here are several reasons why you should explore Rome on this unique Vespa tour.
Easy Meeting Point
Piazza della Repubblica is the tour meeting point. The square is well-connected and easy for drop-offs by taxis and vehicles. Take the subway Line A to the Repubblica-Teatro dell’Opera stop. It’s just a 2-minute walk from the Central Termini Railway Station.
Pro Tip: If you want somewhere to stay close by, I recommend Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel. A restored 19th-century, crescent-shaped palazzo, it fronts Piazza della Repubblica, where the Vespa tour starts. At the assigned time, I met my guide, Alessio, at the concierge desk. My chariot, i.e. baby blue Vespa, was waiting just outside.
The Iconic Landmarks Of Rome
Exploring the highlights of the Eternal City, we visited 12 sights, including the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, and the Borghese Gardens. There were several opportunities to stop, stretch our legs, and linger, including the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.
It’s A Blast!
When exploring the beautiful city of Rome, I loved all the astonished looks on people’s faces as we made our way down tight alleys and broad avenues. I felt like a movie star — everyone was smiling, waving, and snapping our photo. We must have been quite a sight; something special to share with family members when you get home.
Avoid The Crowds
What’s the best way to avoid crowds and see a different side of Rome? See it on a Vespa! If you’re fearless, you could rent one yourself. But my advice? Enlist a pro. You will feel much safer riding next to or behind someone who understands the ins and outs of Rome’s streets, where locals think traffic lanes are merely suggestions.
It’s A Beautiful Ride
The Vespa is a classic: These stunning coupes from Italy are iconic on the streets of Rome. Piaggio & Co. started making the Vespa after WWII as cheap, affordable transportation. Eventually, in 1953, the hit movie Roman Holiday showed the world how great a Vespa could be, resulting in record sales. Like the Colosseum, the Italian scooter has remained a part of Italy’s landscape. You will feel like an authentic Italian in the sidecar of a Vespa.
Unique And Unforgettable Way To See The Eternal City
Unlike larger vehicles, a Vespa can easily maneuver through tight spaces, allowing you to see more of the city’s hidden gems and local hotspots. As you zip through the streets, you’ll experience the city in an exciting and unique way. Your guide will share his knowledge of the city’s history and culture, providing insights into the backstories of the pivotal figures in the Roman Empire.
A Driver And Official Guide Rolled Into One
My driver, Alessio, wasn’t just a history buff: He’s also an official guide, which means he’s been trained to lead tours and provide in-depth information on all the sites you’ll see. He knows how to keep you engaged, entertained, and informed, making your Vespa tour an unforgettable experience. Throughout the tour, he shared fascinating facts, historical anecdotes, and his favorite neighborhoods and restaurants. With his expertise and passion for sharing the city’s rich history, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind adventure that you’ll remember for years to come.
Radio-Connected Modern Whispers
As we cruised along the streets of Rome, Alessio provided commentary directly into my ear through a modern whisper system. He pointed out the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square where the Pope makes his Sunday address. It was chilling to see the balcony above the Piazza Venezia, where Mussolini delivered his most famous speech, the declaration of war on France and Britain in 1940.
A Sense Of Freedom And Excitement
Take in Rome’s sights, sounds, and smells from the open-air Vespa sidecar. You can enjoy the warm breeze on your face, witness the daily life of Romans, and immerse yourself in the city’s timeless beauty.
Pro Tip: Three hours is about the right amount of time to get a taste of Rome. I saw much more than I would in a walking tour, and it was a better experience than a hop-on, hop-off bus tour — we could go where large coaches could not.
I Felt Safe
The guides are expert drivers and the top-class helmets have face shields and disposable head covers. The passenger wears a seatbelt with a shoulder harness. We traveled at the most 24 miles per hour; just the right pace. Once you are on board, your unease fades away as you sit back, hold on, and enjoy the thrill of exploring Rome on a Vespa.
The Hidden Gems Of Rome
Rome is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and a real bucket-list destination. But allow some time to visit the hidden gems many tourists miss. Janiculum Hill, called the “Eighth Hill of Rome,” is a beautiful, often overlooked area with the best views of Rome. It’s a bit of a climb on foot, but on a Vespa, sit back and enjoy the ride. Piazzale Garibaldi in the center has the Giuseppe Garibaldi Monument with a cannon that fires daily at noon. Don’t miss the 17th-century Aqua Paola Fountain.
Cappuccino And Cornetto
After visiting the Pantheon, we stopped for a cappuccino and cornetto, the traditional Roman breakfast choice. Our baby blue Vespa was parked nearby and I enjoyed watching how much attention it got from passersby. On the afternoon tours, customers are offered gelato instead.
This is the perfect gift for someone who has done everything and an unforgettable experience for curious travelers of all ages. You will carry home remarkable moments and fun memories.
Would I recommend Vespa Sidecar Tour? Absolutely. If this had been my first time in Rome, it would have given me a good overview of the places I would like to return to for a deeper dive. I have been to Rome several times, but until now, I’ve never seen the eternal beauty of Rome from the seat of a Vespa sidecar. And the coin I tossed into the Trevi Fountain guarantees I’ll be back.