Riva is one of the most famous names in the nautical world. Of course, we most often think of the sleek and fast boats of the 1950s and 1960s, made of wood, that delighted the world jet-set around the globe. But it all started long before that…
In 1842, the shore of Lake Iseo near Sarnica, Italy, was hit by a severe storm, which devastated the fleet of fishing boats. The fishermen, who were suddenly jobless, asked a local boat builder to help them and repair their vessels. The young man, who had come to Sarnico only a few months earlier, was called Pietro Riva. He did his job very well, thus earning the trust and respect of the fisherman, and shortly afterward he founded his own shipyard and named it – Riva.
Due to the quality of his work and Italian design, his vessels were in high demand, and when Pietro’s son Ernesto took over the business, Riva embarked on the path of its rapid development. With the start of the installation of internal combustion engines, Riva began to manufacture passenger and cargo boats for navigation on the lake, but the final turn to Riva as we know it today had to wait until the end of World War I.
In the 1920s, the helm of the Riva Shipyard was taken over by Serafino Riva, who made a major turnaround. Instead of transport vessels, he decided to start building pleasure motorboats and organized their promotion through boat racing. In the 1920s and 1930s, these vessels set a lot of international and domestic records in racing, and with their sports speedboats, they attracted the attention of the nautical industry. After Serafino, Riva was taken over by probably the most famous member of the Riva family, Carlo Riva. In the 1950s, Carlo decided to put Riva at the very top of the best vessels. The goal was clear – solely the best materials, perfection in all the details, luxury, and know-how of the best craftsmen in the shipyard. Of course, all this attracted the attention of the rich and famous, including film actors, the rich, members of royal families, athletes and others who enjoyed sailing aboard the elegant and fast Riva vessels. Designer and naval architect Giorgio Barilani took care of the design, with the utmost attention paid to the combination of superior design, speed, elegance of wood and Italian charm. The models of those days were Tritone, Ariston, Sebino, and Florida, who were regular guests in all the luxury marinas of the world.
This model, which made Riva legendary, was introduced in November 1962 in Milan. Aquarama immediately took on the role of ambassador of the Riva philosophy, which was followed since the 1920s. Although they began manufacturing fiberglass boats in 1969, wooden boats remained in production until 1996, when they produced the last Riva Aquarama Special with a hull number of 784. With the start of the production of fiberglass boats, which were received extremely well by boaters in 1969, Carlo Riva sold the shipyard to the American Whittaker, and in 1971, Gino Gervasoni took over as CEO.
Twenty years later (1989), the company was taken over by the English group Vickers, and with the departure of Gino Gervasoni, there were no longer members of the Riva family at the shipyard. However, the philosophy and spirit of the Riva family within the company are so strong that workers, designers, and owners follow them even after the departure of Gervasoni and they have continued to create exceptional vessels with the infallible Riva DNA – meaning glamor, the best materials, and elegance at a speed that is still admired by the powerful and the rich.
Return to Italy
After 20 years from the time Carlo Riva sold the shipyard to the Americans, the Italians became the owners of Riva again. Norberto Ferretti and his Ferretti Group have enabled Riva to commence the building of even larger and more luxurious yachts, including the 100 ‘Corsaro, 110’ Dolce Vita, 122 ‘Mythos and the 50Metri superyacht. Of course, they have not forgotten the models of “traditional” form, that created the Riva’s iconic style – Iseo, Aquariva Super, and Rivamare.
Today, nearly 180 years after the storm on the shore of the Lake Iseo, the Riva still represents what Pietro Riva and his successors envisioned – luxury and superbly crafted vessels of the best quality and instantly recognizable design. And if they continue their work as before, there is no need to worry about Riva’s future.
Text: Matej Ogorevc