Motorboat Expert

Independent Yachting Magazine

What’s so special about Riva’s classic wooden boats?

What's so special about Riva's classic wooden boats?

Updated on June 8th, 2024

Riva boats, which today are a source of pride for collectors and an icon for everyone who is in any way connected with yachting, embody the era of Dolce Vita, when elegance and taste were valued more than pomposity and vulgarity. Wooden motorboats of that time are pure classics of the so-called golden age of yachting.

Many boat manufacturers, both then and now, build incredibly beautiful and luxurious analogues, but it so happens that it is Riva boats that have been the standard and the object of desire for over 60 years. What is so special about these shiny and quite expensive boats?

Riva classic wooden boat

Well, to be honest, there is nothing special about them that you couldn’t find in other quality boats. Moreover, there are models on the market that are no less, and perhaps even more beautiful, with better seaworthiness, with perfectly fitted wooden elements and at more attractive prices. Look to the Swiss, Germans, French, British, Americans and yes, those same Italians. No, they don’t use poor quality wood and don’t skimp on engines. Quite the opposite.

But Riva boats are a different level of the market, one that is based less on beauty or practicality than on sentimentality. Of course, Riva has been building boats and yachts of exceptionally high quality since the founding of the shipyard and most of them are excellent in terms of design, but being in the right place at the right time was no less important.

Dolce Vita with Riva Aquarama classic wooden boats

In the 1960s and 70s, when the stars of the Cannes Festival, famous athletes and simply wealthy people firmly established themselves on the French Riviera, designer Carlo Riva did a great job in the field of marketing, spinning the flywheel of popularity of his brand, which was no longer stopped. Thus, his Aquarama runabouts quickly made their way onto movie screens. The advertising industry, which worked with luxury goods, was also not long in coming. This eventually led to all the celebrities wanting these boats and Riva becoming a household name.

Since then, the collector’s value of these boats has become inevitable, so their price is constantly rising, like the price of rare mechanical watch. However, like watches, wooden boats require special attention from the owner. Despite the highest quality of wood used, they cannot compare with GRP boats in terms of unpretentiousness and very quickly become unusable if they are not looked after. But of course, like a work of art, you don’t buy these boats out of rationality, but for completely different reasons.

No matter how carefully you care for a wooden boat, at some point it will still have to be restored. According to Romano Bellini, chairman of Bellini Nautica and owner of the largest Riva collection in the world, restoration can take up to 12 months, depending on the condition of the hull. But the beauty of wooden boats is that, unlike GRP, they can always be restored to perfect condition and once again enjoy the incredible beauty, friendliness and many other positive qualities of wood that other materials lack.

Riva Aquarama

Riva’s classic boats are not only part of history, they created history. These boats are very playful, but at the right moments they are reserved and full of romance. The yachting world may be constantly changing, but works of art like Riva boats will remain with us forever. Because it’s a legend.