Monday, January 9, 2012

Giorgio Bettinelli – RIP

Legendary Vespa traveller Giorgio Bettinlli died in China from a sudden illness on 16 September 2008 at the age of 53. He had lived there for 4 years, on the banks of the Mekong, with his wife Yapei.
Giorgio got his first Vespa in 1992 aged 37. Living in a village in Indonesia, a friend gave him an old Vespa which he promptly rode through the country. Upon returning to Italy he continued his Vespa adventures on a grander scale and it’s probadly easier to list the countries where Bettinelli didn’t travel, rather than where he did.
Travelling upon a simple Vespa PX, with his guitar and backpack, Bettinelli did things that many of us never achieve in our lives. Surprisingly, he had little mechanicals knowledge. When asked what he did if the Vespa ever broke down, he replied “ You wait. Someone comes, someone helps. Acar, a truck, a camel. An hour, a day. Someone comes, someone helps.

In his time Bettinelli made trips from Rome to Saigon (6 months and 24,000km), Alaska to Patagonia (9 months and 36,000km), Melbourne to Cape Town (one years and 52,000km), Chile to Tasmania (3 years, eight months and 144,000km)

He has written books about his trips, but unfortunately they are only available in Italian like “Brum, Brum;254,000km on a Vespa” in which he recall his experiences riding through five continents.
It wasn’t until his later travels that he got some assistance from Piaggio, realising that such feats of endurance really did prove how reliable the Vespa PX was. That’s when I (the man who write this post) had the pleasure of meeting Giorgio for the first time, at one of the motorcycle shows in Milan. Approachable and friendly, he was happy to talk in his limited English (far better than my miniscule Intalian) and promising that one day he’d have more earrings that I did!

In 2006, after settling in China, Bettinelli set off on his last trip on a Vespa GT around China which took 18 months and covered 39,000km. Speaking to people at Piaggio recently, I understand they are planning a tribute to him in their museum at the factory in Pontedera.
Giogio Bettinellian inspiration to us all when it comes to sitting in the saddle and riding your scooter somewhere interesting.

From Scootering Magazine


  1. So sad to learn the news of Georgio's passing. We met him in the market in Jinghong early in 2008 and became friends instantly. He was such a bright and adventurous spirit! Thanks for this tribute; I'm glad to have known him.

  2. Met Georgio in Nairobi, Kenya in 1999. Fascinating guy. RIP.