CH recently had the rare chance to spend a day at Riva's befitting headquarters and boatyard in Sarnico, a small village in northern Italy on the shores of the beautiful Lake Iseo. (Click on images for enlarged view.)
Steeped in history, the Riva story begins with Pietro Riva, a carpenter who in 1842 moved to Lake Como and began a family boat-building business that would involve years of innovation. Beginning with his son Ernesto—inventor of the outboard motor that Riva is now famous for—every generation has taken the reigns and helped the business become a name synonymous with elegance and taste.
Riva produces five yacht models in Sarnico, each with its own production line and different hangar with the bigger fly models—up to 115, 35 meters— produced in La Spezia. Designed with their signature aqua and white striped pattern across the buildings and fences, the Sarnico boatyard immediately recalls the glamour and style embodied by Riva, the colors associated with shiny mahogany surfaces consuming the calm water of the lake.
Upon arrival we were invited to try one of the Riva icons, the Aquariva Cento, a limited edition open 33' motorboat. The comfort and detailing are apparent upon first blush: the leather sofa, the stainless steel accessories, the hidden fridge and faucet, the alternation of smooth and dry surfaces—all add to a constant feeling of soft sensation and hard reactions. Every feature implies true luxury with nothing left to chance. Leaving the shore we see the perfect Y-shaped wave every Riva leaves behind, a combination of two waves and flat water, considered the best for water skiing.
Behind the wheel, the sensation of maneuvering such a masterpiece is uniquely unparalleled. While it's incredibly easy to speed up and make the engines yell with gentle and fluid moves of the levers, our captain showed us how to take the most out of this jewel, which entails a breathtaking experience of the bow lifting up, the roar of wind and engines thrilling and two wings of water surround us. The whole scene feels surreal, like flying in a race car.
After an hour sailing with the motorboat open, not one single drop of water splashed us. We wonder, how can that be? Design or magic? We think it's a clever combination of both.
Now part of the Ferretti Group, Riva still maintains its traditions in history, design and precision manufacturing of small and big yachts. Watching the hundreds of technicians and artisans actually building the yachts by hand is truly amazing, especially noting that in each boat, big or small, all of the screw cuttings go the same exact direction, following a straight line along the entire hull.
Riva applies that same level of perfection to every single element, implemented by an astounding group of trained plumbers, engineers, carpenters and electricians, who all personally take care of the mechanical and electronic systems that comprise the hidden heart of the boats. Acknowledging its rarity, a few years ago the master craftsmen formed Scuola Serafino Riva, a school aimed to coach the future generations of boat makers, one that will ensure a standard of quality Riva will endure for years to come.