A classic Riva boat is a design icon, a moving sculpture in wood, chrome and leather with a sweeping cinerama glass window screen that attracts attention wherever it goes and give pleasure to all onboard.
Add to this a long list of famous owners and an association with exotic Mediterranean locations such as Capri, Monaco and San Tropez, or the beautiful Italian lakes of Como, Maggiore and Garda, and it is no wonder that the Riva name has, over time, become a legend.
The legend owes its existence to the determination and artistry of one man, Carlo Riva. The fourth generation of his family to build boats on the shores of Lago d’Iseo in northern Italy, it was his vision and drive that transformed the family firm into a world-class boatyard, as renowned as Rolls-Royce or Bentley and marketing a product that represented the Crown Jewels to those who, at that time, shopped at the likes of Garrards and Aspreys.
He was the architect of the nautical icon we now celebrate, at one time as chief designer as well as engineer, salesman and many other roles besides. And it was his uncompromising commitment to quality, his flair in design, yet dedication to the efficiency and functionality of the boat that ensured that so many of the boats have survived today.
Sadly, Carlo left us on 10 April 2017, after 90 years of building his dream. He now enters the world of legendary personalities who have given their heart and soul to the world at large. He was a gentle giant with a steely determination, combined with the artfulness of a fox, to achieve his goal of building beautiful boats. For those of us that have spent time with him its has been an honour and a privilege to be in his presence and through him, and his boats, the world of Riva will surely live on forever.
Today a classic Riva is not only an object of desire but a unique slice of nautical heritage, encapsulating as it does the style, wealth and extravagance of the fifties and sixties jet-set – a time when most could still only dream of owning a car, let alone foreign travel and expensive boats.
Nobody is sure how many of the 4,000 or so wooden boats built survive, although the Riva Historical Society is the custodian of the International Riva Historical Registry which aims to catalogue surviving boats.