LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Riva Yachts, La Dolce Vita


Riva, the historic Italian boat builder, has advanced from its iconic runabouts to create a fleet of elegant yachts.

Riva, the historic Italian boat builder, is famous for its iconic vintage runabouts, handcrafted from gleaming mahogany. We tell the story behind these exquisite yachts and look at the next generation of Rivas that share the brand values of understated luxury, premium quality and classic style.


In the world of luxury goods, few brands enjoy the profile of Italian boat builder Riva. Combining craftsmanship on a par with Hermès, heritage akin to that of Cartier and technological innovation comparable to Rolls Royce, Riva yachts are synonymous with la dolce vita. And none more so than the Aquarama, the marque’s classic "runabout" boat that was first introduced in 1962. This icon of Italian design is instantly recognizable with its sleek wraparound windscreen, sparkling chrome details and acres of polished mahogany. Although no longer in production, a restored Aquarama is still the most stylish way to cruise the shores of the Mediterranean or the Italian lakes.

It was at Lake Iseo in Sarnico, Italy, that the Riva story began. Founded in 1872 by Pietro Riva, it wasn’t until the 1930s that Carlo Riva began to create boats for the leisure market, handcrafted in mahogany. By 1996, boats made from plastic had flooded the market at considerably cheaper prices. Carlo Riva sold his company to Vickers, his last act being to “combine cold plastic with a touch of warm wood”.

Whereas Vickers concentrated on restorations, Riva’s current owner, Ferretti, has reignited its spirit for innovation. After taking control in 2000, Ferretti employed the talent of Mauro Micheli and his company, Officina Italiana Design, to create a fleet of 10 luxurious yachts.

No longer does the Riva fleet begin and end with elegant tenders. Yes, there is the 33 ft Aquariva Super, a classic runabout that is the heir to the Aquarama, but there is also the 115 ft flagship, Athena, and the newly launched 92 ft Duchessa. Combining modern toys within Riva’s signature styling, Duchessa features dark walnut furniture embellished with leather, a walk-in wardrobe in the master cabin and an impressive garage for tenders that, when empty, converts at the flick of a switch into a relaxation room suspended directly over the water.

Riva might be riding the wave of technological advancement but the brand’s outstanding attention to detail remains in evidence on Duchessa: the generous use of rigatino (mahogany inlaid with maple), the specific way in which the perfectly matured wood is sawn, the 24 coats of varnish applied to make the wood as shiny as possible, and the screws all set in the same direction. Some things never change. But real design icons, such as the Riva, get better with age.

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