With 3 new build deliveries from the La Spezia shipyard in the last 14 months we often wondered what it would be like to visit the spiritual home of Riva in Sarnico on the shores of Lake Iseo so when the opportunity came up we literally jumped at the chance !
After a very warm welcome we embarked on a truly spectacular visit of the shipyards whilst learning how the team put their decades of experience and fine Italian artistry to design some of the most elegant boats on the water today.
The fascinating Riva story dates back to 1842, when Pietro Riva founded the Riva shipyard on the shores of Lago d’Iseo in Sarnico - a small northern town. It is here that the Riva family began building commercial boats as a family-run business.
By the 1930’s, the purpose began to change for Riva. The brand was no longer captained by Pietro, his grandson, Serafino, had taken to the helm. Riva was now navigating towards manufacturing record-breaking powerboats, which Serafino raced himself. As well as this, Riva simultaneously began crafting pleasure vessels too.
Major transformation came for the brand following World War I when Serafino’s Riva’s son, Carlos Riva applied his creative flair and designed the distinct wooden boats the brand is famed for today.
With its opulent and growing popularity and status, the Riva brand quickly escalated to be globally recognised. Their affiliation lay with high-profile captains of industry, celebrities and even royalty.
Carlos Riva was hands-on in his approach. From evolving the bow shape using the human eye all the way through to developing the final finishes and technologies, Carlos’ passion was evident.
From 1956, architect and designer Giorgio Barilini became a forefront collaborator with the brand - giving birth to the ‘Riva icon’, Aquarama during the winter of 1962. The hull was based on the Riva Tritone, an earlier model speedboat by Riva, with top speeds of 73km/h. The meticulous craftsmanship which went into this model, earned it’s praise as the ‘Ferrari of the boat world’. The production of this model ran from 1962 to 1996 and is notably the flagship of its range.
In the years to follow, the company began incorporating fibreglass into their production. Lighter, significantly lower in maintenance time and cost, Riva saw it necessary to start implementing this material in their design. In spite of the growing use of this material, Riva continued to make wooden boats until the delivery of the Aquarama Special. In September 1969, the yard changed hands and was sold to the US company Whittaker. However, partnership with the Riva family was retained.
In 1989 following a triumphant journey, the Riva family era came to an end when being bought out by Vickers - a British group who owned Rolls Royce at the time.
The Ferretti Group went on to acquire Riva in 2000, giving them the infrastructure which enabled them to grow their capacity and progress onto building larger yachts.
Since, the brand has flourished in unimaginable ways. They have made their mark in the larger yacht sector with their Superyacht Division, held at the largest shipbuilding facility in Europe - the Riva Ancona yard. Steered by the Ferretti Group, the company continues to make headway in the industry, embracing the use of new and old materials, drawing on influences from their heritage and their future.
The SYM Superyacht Management team looks to continue their strong relationship with the brand, long into the future.