A contemporary legend

The Riva story is all about the unique, inimitable savoir-faire that is the secret of its winning beauty and style today and has always been from the very beginning. It was 1842, and on Lake Iseo, a sudden storm had devastated the fishing fleet. Yet a young shipwright was working wonders, restoring many of the vessels to full seagoing health and earning the local people’s respect and admiration in the process. And so the Riva legend was born and, with it, that of Pietro Riva, who took his destiny in his hands the moment he arrived in the little town of Sarnico. Here, he opened the yard where he would launch the first Riva creations, craft of outstanding personality and class even then. Riva rapidly gained an excellent reputation, and the yard continued to flourish under Pietro’s son Ernesto, who introduced boats powered by internal combustion engine. The era of the large passenger and cargo boats on the lake had arrived. After World War I, it was Serafino Riva who gave the firm its definitive stamp, transforming the yard’s prestigious products into a genuine brand that would make yachting history. Production shifted from transport vessels to motorboats, still an embryonic market in those days. In the late ’20s and early ’30s, Riva’s racing yachts swept all before them, claiming countless wins and records in national and international competitions. The ’50s belonged to Carlo Riva, whose talent and passion turned the brand into one of the brightest stars in the nautical firmament, as Riva boats seduced the celebrities of the day and acquired the status of design and lifestyle icons. In this decade of Italian industrial revolution, L’Ingegnere, as Carlo Riva was known, tapped into the predominant ethos – the lionisation of speed – with a series of wood-based designs of unmistakable verve. From 1956, he began to collaborate with designer and architect Giorgio Barilani. And in November 1962, the legend was born: Aquarama. Her magical lines and irresistible allure made her an instant classic – the Riva icon, “the boat” par excellence, a brand within a brand. Another historic milestone arrived in 1969, when the company began making vessels from fibreglass. Riva’s first two composite models were the day cruiser Bahia Mar 20' and the cabin cruiser Sport Fisherman 25'; others would follow over the next three decades, notably the St. Tropez and the Superamerica, the first cabin cruiser on a grand scale. Even as fibreglass gained ground, Riva continued to make wooden runabouts until 1996, when the final Aquarama Special, no. 784, was built. Disillusioned by the climate of industrial unrest, Carlo Riva sold the yard to the US concern Whittaker in September 1969, although he stayed on as Chairman and General Manager, handing over the reins in July 1971 to his brother-in-law Gino Gervasoni, his partner since 1950. In 1989, a year after the Riva company was fully bought out by the British group Vickers, Gervasoni’s 41-year association with the yard came to an end, bringing down the curtain on the Riva family era. Then at the 1991 Genoa Boat Show, Riva unveiled the first yacht designed by Mauro Micheli – the 58' Bahamas.

Riva Today

In May 2000, Riva became part of Ferretti Group, who restored it to where it is today, at the vanguard of world boating as a recognised icon of fine Italian yachting artistry. This felicitous journey is down to the know-how of the group Engineering department and the sensibility of designer Mauro Micheli, co-founder with Sergio Beretta of Officina Italiana Design, the studio that exclusively designs the whole Riva fleet.

That year also saw the launch of Aquariva, a 33-foot embodiment of the brand DNA that set the tone for the future output – a triumph of élan, innovation and exclusivity encapsulated in a product of revolutionary engineering, reliability and performance. In 2012, Ferretti Group announced a new majority shareholder: Shandong Heavy Industry Group (Weichai Group) of China, a true industrial giant, one of the world’s most important conglomerates in the automotive, commercial vehicles and construction machinery sectors. Weichai’s strength and strategic vision have enabled Riva to make yet another leap forward, with a flow of projects and resources assured for the long term. In 2014, the brand signalled its return to the megayacht sector, with the new Riva Superyachts division. The dream of creating Riva steel and alluminium displacement superyachts is very much inspired by Carlo Riva. His ambition and restless genius spurred him to reach for new horizons, with the celebrated Caravelle and Atlantic series megayachts in the ’60s and ’70s and, from 1970 to 1978, the six over-20-metre motor yachts in the Marco Polo series plus a 90- and a 100-foot Vespucci.

The Riva yard in Sarnico:
the timeless atelier

The production yard in Sarnico near Bergamo opened in 1842 on Lake Iseo deep in the Franciacorta area and remains the heartbeat of the Riva story today. This is where it is all made and always has been – from the legendary wooden hulls of the past to the modern 27- to 66-foot yachts.

This was his personal brainchild, from the design to the functional amenities. Known as La Plancia (the bridge), the office stands in the middle of the work shed, its great 40-metre-wide arch borne on two pillars that also support a pair of bridge cranes, each capable of lifting craft weighing in at 20 tons. This architectural masterpiece makes a fine sight, even from the far side of the lake. A listed building, it is officially protected along with the rest of the yard as an environmental heritage treasure. The shipyard spans 36,000 sqm, about 17,000 sqm of it indoors, and boasts 10 moorings, 2 jib cranes, 4 painting cabs and a 50-ton trolley for transporting the finished yachts to the jetty and for handling shells or bulky items.

The Riva yard in La Spezia:
the future is now

The La Spezia production facility is a key strategic and industrial hub. Built to extend Riva’s range and production capacity, it became operational in 2004 and is now the group’s technical, logistical and commercial centre of excellence for the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian seas.

With 13,000 sqm of indoor facilities. These include industrial work sheds and office blocks as well as piers and jetties with a total length of around 400 metres, serviced by a 300-ton wheeled travel-lift. Conceived to champion state-of-the-art production techniques and to build the largest models in the range – from 76- to 110-footers – it is home to the largest centre for testing, launching and delivering yachts in the whole of the Ferretti Group. Owners of yachts by all the group brands can enjoy customer-care and marina services here.

The Riva yard in Ancona:
the home of the new Riva Superyachts division

Spanning almost 80,000 sqm (nearly a third of it indoors), the Ancona yard is one of the largest shipbuilding facilities anywhere in Europe. It’s home to the engineering and design team from the Riva Superyachts division, who work closely with designer Mauro Micheli and his colleagues at Officina Italiana Design.

This is where we build the Riva 50m, a steel and aluminium giant of the seas, a masterpiece of advanced technology and attention to detail suffused with the spirit of the brand.

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