When the Piaggio company was founded in Genoa in 1884, it produced woodworking machinery for the local shipbuilding industry. In 1901, it turned to railway rolling stock, then in1916, to aircraft, and in 1924, to car manufacturing. By 1939 Piaggio was playing a leading role in Italian aviation. Its most famous wartime airplane was the P108—the nation's only four-engined heavy bomber to attain service status during the hostilities.

By 1944, nothing was left of Piaggio's production facilities but bombed-out buildings, a few machine tools, and a huge workforce. Factory owner Enrico Piaggio called a management meeting, after which his chief designer, aviation specialist Carradano d'Ascanio, began work on was emerged as the Vespa scooter, which used a small, two-stroke auxiliary engine.

Along with its rival Lambretta, the Vespa put Italy back on wheels. It embodied the lastest motocycle, automotice, and aviation technology; today over 50 years later, the machin is still being manufactured, using the same general design concept ...

Text courtesy"The Art of the Motocycle", The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.