As soon as we got our hands on the new Vespa 946, we understood one thing. This is no city Vespa; it’s not made to endure the drudgery of morning traffic and the scratches of downtown parking. This is the 2-wheeled equivalent of a vintage convertible, primed for Sunday drives on curvy, countryside roads. And so we gave it what it wanted. A little Chianti.

Tommaso and I have always been citified Vespa drivers, so we’ve never done a long trip on the Vespa, nor ventured very far from Florence. Suddenly we felt daring and youthful, and decided to go for lunch in Certaldo along the SP79 (Volterrana) despite unpromising skies.

On the inner, winding roads of Tuscany, the smells are wonderful. It’s almost November, so occasionally we’d encounter the pungent smell of crushed grapes – we’re driving through Chiantishire, after all! Then some clean, cut grass, then a fragrant whiff of flowers, and the occasional smell of lunch emanating mouthwateringly from farmhouses by the side of the road.

The Vespa 946 is the newest and prettiest of the Piaggio clan, and in some ways it’s loaded with new technology, but in others it’s stripped down to its design essentials. Its suspended seat, which makes potholes a breeze, means there’s no storage area underneath (handy for your helmet), and its focus on looks means there’s no ugly plastic windshield in front (handy for avoiding bugs in your mouth). I’ve never felt the freedom of unadulterated wind on my face like this. It feels good, though I recommend a helmet with full front visor…

From a design point of view, you can’t help but appreciate its rear, which truly exaggerates the shape of the “vespa” (wasp).

Tommaso appreciated the good pickup and the great ABS brakes, which are an improvement on the 125s model we own and is a breeze on steep hills and curves. I appreciate the suspension, which makes riding on the back feel like a Cadillac. On the other hand, we found the seat to be a bit too firm (perhaps it softens up with time?), wide and short, and we don’t love the digital display – a strange choice in a retro design. Also, this bike lacks a kickstart pedal.

We drove 100km, from Florence to Certaldo and back, interrupted by a large, 2-hour lunch, and stopping frequently for photo opportunities. We had fun, and enjoyed being on this brand new, attention-getting model, but will be sticking to the older, more practical Vespa 125S for now due to its comfortable city-friendly design.

If the Vespa is a lovemark, the 946 is for lovers. With beautiful design, loaded with high tech features and a snazzy motor, it’s a vehicle that inspires passion, demands time, and wants to travel.

I was offered the Vespa 946 to test drive from Piaggio. All opinions are my own. For further information and to book your own test drive, see the official website.

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