The Influencers | Carlo Riva

by Kelly Stavropoulou

He is the man who introduced the concept of the elegant boat. Let’s say something like the Aston Martin of floats. The legend of the Riva was born on the shores of Lake Iséo, between Venice and Milan, is more than a century old. Ernesto Riva, a humble boat carpenter, used to build small fishing boats there, which were extremely light and devilishly fast. In 1907, his son, also named Ernesto, followed his father’s craft, continuing the same style. With his eyes on the yachting trend that was sweeping the Hamptons, he too began building a more “refined” version of motorboats. He even participated in races with these beautiful and fast boats and his fame in the 1920s reached across the Atlantic.

His son Carlo inherited this great success of his father, whose echoes had spread beyond the borders not only of his own country but also of Europe. He had every reason to take the Riva concept one step further and take it to the next level. Which he did. Specifically, he decided to focus exclusively on speedboats, leaving fishing boats behind. In addition, it also introduces a highly elegant design, making the most of Italian refinement, something that is being done for the first time on boats. The windscreen of his boats is reminiscent of that of Cadillac cars. The luxurious seats are aesthetically inspired, as he has mentioned, by the swing his wife has in their home garden, while the hull is painted with 24 coats of varnish so that it literally sparkles (today, instead of varnish, they use polyester).

The result is so beautiful and esthetic that it charms the jet set of the era. Prince Rainier of Monaco is one of the first fanatics of Riva boats. Carlo Riva finds an excuse and moves his base to the Principality of Monaco. In particular, he asks to create an exhibition of his boats in the rock of the marina. Reniere, although he does not understand the feasibility of the project, advocates it. To date, the “ornaments” with the Riva signature are in the same spot, which extends to 100 m long and 12 m high. Somewhere around that time, in 1962, the new model named “Aquarama” was launched. The slogan of its launch is “Sun, Sea and Joie de Vivre” and, not coincidentally, it attracts the attention of Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Peter Sellers, Sophia Lauren, Aristotle Onassis and the Kennedys. It probably didn’t take much more for the name Riva to become irrevocably associated with jet-set, the good life, style and eventually become a legend. Not coincidentally, Gruppo Ferretti CEO Alberto Galassi has said that the yacht world is divided into two periods: the pre-Carlo Riva and the post-Carlo Riva.

The Riva style is still alive and well, and a pass through Monaco can make it clear to all of us. We only have to catch our eye on the yacht moored in the marina with the initials BB standing out on the mahogany stern. A few metres further on, some Aquaramas from the 1960s and a little further on, the new Aquariva models that continue the Riva legend to this day.


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