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Scooter rentals in France and Italy

Does this headline have you asking "Where do I sign up?" or "Are you crazy?" Regardless, it's certainly worth noting that the European car rental company AutoEurope is now offering Vespa rentals in Italy and Yamaha scooter rentals in France. Rentals are in cities such as Rome, Florence, Paris, and Cannes.

I have mixed feelings about this one. One the one hand, driving styles in cities such as Paris and Rome are terrifying enough in a car, and to take on unfamiliar city traffic on a scooter seems foolhardy. On the other hand, I've spent a fair amount of time enjoying Paris from the back of a motorcycle, and I think it's an amazing way to experience the city.

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It's faster than walking, and since you can take in more Paris every second—more buildings and sidewalk cafes, monuments, and river views— you get a concentrated version of the city, one which is truly intoxicating, especially at night. It's also less mediated than being in a car, so transportation becomes a sensory goldmine, one rich in the scents of baking bread, diesel fumes, and the other smells that define Paris.

Having said that, in my moto-forays I never had to drive. I was always with someone who knew the city very well, which makes it a whole lot easier to sit back and enjoy the experience.

Here's a fun fact if you do plan to rent a scooter in Paris: The Etoile, that giant traffic roundabout that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe, is paved with bumpy stones. So if you dare enter the whirlwind, beware that you'll be up against more than just eight lanes of swerving traffic.

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