Yes, it's a scooter and, yes, it has three wheels. And, yes, it looks like the bastard offspring of an SUV and a moon buggy. Gilera Fuoco is closely related to the Piaggio MP3, with the same steering system that allows it to lean over in corners.
In fact, it really doesn't handle any differently to a regular two-wheeler. You still have to counter-steer and, with so much bodywork and tread plate covering the front end, from the saddle you can't even see there are two wheels up front.
So what's it all about? Safety, apparently. And fun. Oh, and passion too. That's what Gilera say after we get to ride their Fuoco scooter for 50 kilometers through lunch-hour Rome. Hardly a comprehensive testing run, but enough to show that the Gilera Fuoco makes a nifty little commuter. It's not actually that wide, just 1cm more than Gilera's other 500cc scooter, the Nexus.
In other words, it is slightly narrower than a Suzuki Bandit 650. But the extra wheel does detract in other areas, most clearly, weight. At a claimed 244kilo dry, this scooter is just a few kilos off what BMW claim for their K1200GT tourer which is, frankly, absurd. The weight isn't particularly noticeable when you're riding, there's a handy button that locks the bike upright at a standstill, so you don't even have to support the mass at traffic lights, but the 40 horsepower, 500cc single-cylinder engine often struggles. The brakes also battle the weight, both levers needing determined squeezes to get any real power.
But there has to be some trade off for the benefits a third wheel offers, and it does offer plenty. Try scraping the center-stand or exhaust straight from cold tires on any other bike and hospital beckons. The grip and confidence from th Gilera Fuoco's front end is absolutely astonishing, so it almost makes you want to ride like a fool, just to show the doubters how good it is. For a bad-weather cross-town commute, there isn't anything else I'd rather ride. If it was only available at our home in Bangkok.