Luxury yachts. The very words evoke glorious dreams of carefree cruising in unparalleled comfort. Italians are master shipbuilders, and Riva is a prime example.

Italy is a peninsula, its shores lapped by the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. It is the country where city-states like Venice and Genoa rose to power and prominence because of their direct access to the sea. It is where shipbuilding was raised to a high art. Fastforward to Riva, founded by Pietro Riva in 1842 on the banks of Lake Iseo, not far from famous Lake Como, in northern Italy, at the foot of the Alps. The company began as a boat repair specialist, moving to the construction of cargo and passenger boats, and, ultimately, to high-performance products. In the 1920s and 30s, Riva racing yachts set records and collected numerous accolades. Carlo Riva and his brother-in-law, Gino Gervasoni, took over in the 1950s, and celebrity purchases by the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Sofia Loren, Sean Connery, the Shah of Iran, and the King of Jordan fed the corporate legend.

After being sold to foreign interests, Riva was returned to Italian control when the Ferretti Group purchased the company in 2000. Riva was in turn taken overby Chinese group SHIG-Weichai, but maintains its operations in Italy. With solid backing from its new shareholders, the company enjoyed a healthy comeback and now builds yachts ranging from 27 to 300 feet long, the latter by special order only. Elegance and discreet luxury are the hallmarks of these crafts, the cabins of which are designed and built by experienced Italian craftsmen. This new era, but fifteen years old, began with the collaboration of Officina Italiana Design, led by Mauro Micheli, guardian of the spirit of the Riva dynasty.

While all of the yachts bear model names (such as Iseo and Aquariva), they are more commonly referred to in terms of their length, expressed in feet: 27, 33, 44 and 52 are the most popular and affordable yachts, perfect for large lakes and rivers, even the St. Lawrence. In the Montreal region, you can see a 33 in Lachine, while an impressive 44 can be spotted in Laval-sur-le-Lac, like a Gitano model currently hidden away in a garage, no doubt being pampered by its owner. On larger Riva yachts, like the Mythos 122, you will find a hot tub on the upper deck, even though it is more fashionable today to feature a lounge area instead. Leather upholstery is also very on trend; it goes beautifully with Riva’s mahogany, which features an astonishing 22 coats of varnish. All of this in addition to standard Riva features, such as logos and other custom trimmings made to order exclusively by suppliers located near the Sarnico shipyard. There is no need to question why Riva has been the benchmark in the business for more than 170 years!


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By: Pierre Deschênes