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Italian crosses Alps in Vespa for Belfast festival

Mario Pecorari and Sandra Carozzi travelled from Trieste to Belfast for a Vespa festival. Michael McHugh/PA.

A 65-year-old travelled thousands on miles on a diminutive scooter to join a legion of other enthusiasts in Belfast this weekend.

Northern Ireland was colonised by around 3,000 Vespa enthusiasts whose high-pitched engines and low-slung contours created a stir.

They toured in a long buzzing line between the city’s Titanic Quarter and Carrickfergus Castle in Co Antrim.

The Italian-made bike was built specifically to show the world that the small scooter could be competitive in races.

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Mario Pecorari, from Trieste in north eastern Italy, crossed the Alps on a machine bedecked with stickers to join fellow enthusiasts in Belfast for a Vespa World Days festival.

He said: “The Vespa is not a scooter, it is a philosophy of life.”

He wore leathers adorned with stickers and labels from scooter clubs around the world, reflecting friendships forged while pursuing his hobby.

“They are very good people; Vespa people are free people.”

Some stickers were from far-flung Patagonia in southern Argentina, others from Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel in the Peruvian Andes.

It took him five days and 2,450 miles to cross the continent to Belfast.

He stood under the shadow of the giant yellow cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the doomed Titanic liner was built more than a century ago.

Thousands of bikes bedecked with flags and stickers lined up near the slipway from which the Titanic was launched, a panoply of different nations and languages on display.

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Some were from Ostend in Belgium, others from France.

Mr Pecorari’s carried a banner proclaiming him part of the Vespa Club Trieste.

He travelled with Sandra Carozzi.

Enrico Piaggio’s original Vespa was not the first scooter when it was displayed in a golf club in Rome in 1946.

But the manufacturers said it was an immediate success and gained extensive media interest as well as public curiosity, surprise and scepticism.

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Mr Pecorari crossed the whole of Europe in 2015, 30,000 kilometres from Trieste to the northern tip of Norway far above in the Arctic Circle down to Mediterranean Greece and Italy.

By comparison the five-day trip to Belfast was child’s play.

He added: “It is an occasion to find a friend, I know many people, from Finland, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, in this event it is possible to find people.

“Only here it is possible.”

Those connections stretch as far as Syria and South America.

Mr Pecorari added: “When you drive a Vespa, everywhere people stop you and say, ‘my uncle had one’, then you have a connection with people.”