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Friday, January 21, 2011

Renting a Scooter in Rome

                                                        "Sometimes good people make mistakes." 

That's a line from a local lawyer's TV commercial, referring to drunk drivers.  It could just as well refer to tourists who rent scooters in Rome, a complex city whose traffic can be challenging even for those who know it well and have been riding its streets on two-wheelers since they were 12.

It might have made some sense in 1953, when Gregory Peck was chauffering Audrey Hepburn around on a Vespa in Roman Holiday, for the city was then by comparison a small town, only flirting with big-city status, and scooters were new and not yet ubiquitous--toys, really, rather than what they would become: necessary instruments for navigating a city choked with cars.  Of course, you'll be tempted.  That romantic, curious Roman Holiday poster, with Peck captured in an awkward and perilous lean (above right), apparently representing a turn, of the sort never seen on the road, is at every souvenier shop.  And just a glance at some of Rome's riders--the upright business executive with the briefcase between his legs, heading for work, the leggy blonde in high heels--may yield the conclusion that operating a scooter is as easy as finding a plate of spaghetti con vongole.  Others, bear-armed tatooed guys mounted on their throaty 650cc steeds, with clutching chicks behind, will doubtless be taken as evidence that real men ride. 

As if those temptations weren't sufficient, renting a scooter is easy.  There are dozens of rental outlets in the city.  There's one on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, which (roughly) connects Piazza Venezia and the Vatican; there's Bici Baci, where we rented when our old Piaggio broke down (which was frequently), on via Viminale, between Stazione Termini and Piazza Reppublica [right, and interior photo, at top]; and another just outside the front of Stazione Termini (we've rented there, too, again when our regular scooter was in the shop).

The business outside the train station is now called "Treno e Scooter Rent," and you can find out all you need to know on their website at  Here's a sampling:  For E34 (about $45) per day you can rent a 50cc Piaggio Liberty (probably too small for two).  A much larger 300cc Honda SH, powerful enough to get you up the Alban Hills--and, unfortunately, outside the area where the company will pick you up if something goes wrong--rents for E70/day, or E526 for two weeks.  In between in power and price is a 125cc Honda SH, perhaps Rome's standard machine. 

If you're satisfied with either of the two smaller models, all that's required is a regular US driver's license, though some companies will ask for evidence in the form of an international license, which you can obtain in 20 minutes at AAA in the States.  If you crave the 300, you'll need to demonstrate that you have a motorcycle rating on your license (and again, you may be asked for an international license).  Prices include helmets and insurance.  Treno e Scooter Rent offers a 20% discount in the winter.  But winter in Rome is often cold (like 45-50 degrees F, which can be numbing on a scooter), and rainy (dangerous and, unless you have genuine riding raingear, exceedingly uncomfortable). 

All rental companies put their names, addresses, and phone numbers prominently on their scooters.  This is bad and good.  It's bad because it's wimpy; you're branded as a tourist, an outsider, a beginner.  It's good because Rome drivers, convinced--and no doubt correctly--that you don't know what you're doing, will do their best to avoid you. 

We urge you not to succumb to the temptation to join the throngs of Roman scooter and motorcycle riders (or centaurs, as they are referred to in the newspapers).  The Metro is excellent, the buses are frequent, and walking is perhaps Rome's greatest pleasure. 

That said, sometimes good people make mistakes.  How we came to make ours, in the next installment.



Riley said...

The "Sistine Scooter" painting is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

It's a well known fact that Rome's favourite means of transportation is the scooter. I picked up a brochure from the hotel which gives an indication of prices and how it works. With scooter it's can access areas limited and park anywhwere. Good Delivery service in hotel.

This rental company is located in station Roma Tiburtina. Open 7 days a week.

Price indication (2012) for a 50 cc Scooter:
Per 24 hrs € 35
Weekends € 80
For a week € 160

There are 50cc to 500 cc Comfort Scooters for rent.
And bicycles at €7 per 24 hrs.

Phone: 0694537948


Unknown said...

This awesome blog post can be helpful for any body who seeks to rent a scooter in Rome.
coach to Rome

Amy Key said...

Hi, guys! I have US driving license and want to rent a scooter in Rome, Italy. I found a local rental company, on their it's website mentioned that I need to have international driving license. Is US license is OK to rent a scooter in Rome?

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

Hi Amy,
See the third paragraph of the post for our response to your query. Also, unless you have experience driving a scooter, don't even think about renting one in Rome, where the traffic is intense and American driving customs don't apply. If you do rent, wear clothing that will protect you to some degree if you fall (jeans, gloves, sturdy jacket, boots)--even in warm weather.
Best of luck,

2 Wheel Adventures said...

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Francesco said...

Another Vespa rental is called Rome by Vespa, it is located nearby Termini station

To have more info visit