Subscribe to our newsletter

BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Riva Rivarama

The real mind-boggler was the finish. It was gorgeous, even a little mystifying, like somebody’d taken ten blocks of modern, high-end Milanese decor, inexplicably refined it into the essence of all things Italian, then poured the result into the hull of a sexy, souped-up speedboat. I blinked, allowing my eyes to wander across the aviation-style cabinets that circumscribed the interior.

They were perfect. The metallic-silver Awlgrip they’d been sprayed with looked lustrous, lacquer-like. The interstices between the doors were rectilinear, identical. Their bottom edges, from where I stood at the foot of the companionway, stretched forward in fastidiously straight lines, parallel to the lines of the Corian countertop surfaces and the lines of the slats of the miniblinds.

Whooooeeeeee! I scratched my head, then smoothed my thumb over the edge of the dinette table, a museum-grade artifact of chrome steel, glass, and wood. Most levels of fit and finish I encounter while reviewing boats are comprehensible, meaning I’m able to understand how, with a certain degree of expertise and the right kind of tools, a given group of craftspeople are able to achieve certain ends. The level of fit and finish I was admiring at the moment, however, belonged to an entirely different—I’d say artisanal—order. No matter how much imagination I applied to the tools and techniques of the Italians I’d met earlier, during a tour of the Riva plant, I simply could not fathom exactly how they’d created this enigmatic work of art.

The layout was simple, but sybaritic. Except for a small, single-berth, single-head stateroom for crew accessed via a cockpit hatch, the entire below-decks living area was given over to the exclusive enjoyment of the owner. Up forward, there was a thick double berth with switches for individualized reading lights and an array of finely crafted drawers containing such unique standards as Italian leather luggage and embroidered towels, sheets, and shirts, all emblazoned with the Riva logo. Amidships and to port, chastely hidden from view behind the doors and lids of a built-in credenza, I examined a Frigonautica refrigerator, Bosch cooktop, Panasonic microwave oven, and stainless steel sink. Adjoining lockers, cupboards, and upholstered drawers were loaded with silver-plated flatware, a stackable stainless steel pan set, and a china set for four, again all emblazoned with the Riva logo. Moreover, to dial it up yet another notch, a "bottle refrigerator" had been added, a deliciously decadent feature. I was told it could chill a champagne bottle and a couple of flutes in less time than it takes to pop Bocelli’s Romanza into the stereo.

The dinette area, with the aforementioned museum-grade table and lounge, was to starboard (opposite the credenza) at right angles to the Sharp 15-inch LCD-type TV installed on the after bulkhead. A couch-potato-friendly setup? Not really, since it throws a kink into the neck of anyone wanting to dine and channel surf at the same time and stations the TV too far away for viewing from the berth. The washroom—"head" seems a bit crass—was a knockout, though. Just abaft the dinette, a door opened onto a commodious cabin with lacquered overhead panels, a Techma electric MSD, and a separate stall shower. The place was so Italian! Took me a few minutes to realize the chrome-steel bowl in the thick, lime-green, frosted-glass countertop was actually a sink!

I was hot to drive the Rivarama, of course, despite the intense cold in Northern Italy around Christmastime; the weatherman was calling for snow in Sarnico, the little village on Lake Iseo where Riva’s been building boats for the past 161 years. So once I’d finished ogling our test boat’s interior, I went topside and hit the ignition switches. Vroom, vroom went our twin 700-hp MAN diesels, thundering to life in the cavernous interior of "the Riva garage."

Garage? The test boat was floating in a giant, concrete-sided lagoon within an equally giant lakeside building, an in-the-water facility for tweaking new launches. Appropriately, it was located directly below Riva’s main office, a wonderful place originally built to resemble the bridge of a ship. I’d checked it out the day before, as carpenters and electricians hired by Riva’s owner, the Ferretti Group, carefully worked to restore and modernize it.

The garage door went up at the flip of a switch, admitting a frigid blast from the lake and a vision of the snow-capped peaks of the Alps. Test driver Alex De Ponte eased the Rivarama through the slot in the concrete&mdash'I wasn’t taking any chances threading the needle myself, not with somebody else’s million-dollar boat. Swapping places with Alex once we were outside, I leaned on the ZF/Mathers electronic sticks and started beelining south, the only boat on the lake.

It was a magnificent experience. The Rivarama had a stately feel, as much due to a considerable displacement as to a rich complement of standards. At 2000 rpm, I shifted the dual-speed transmissions into high gear, hunkered down behind the sleek windshield, gulped huge mouthfuls of mountain air, and let the turbos whine. Riva’s public relations rep Petra Proksch, who’d decided to brave the elements with us, smiled bravely from the windings of a red woolen scarf.

Turns on the Rivarama were flat-out thrilling. Not only was the helm instantaneously, electrifyingly responsive, but the way the Rivarama carved great green swirls in the lake was classic. Visibility forward was good, except for brief periods while we were coming out of the hole. The helm seat, with its fold-down companion seats on either side, was comfortable, and the adrenaline rush I experienced at top hop was just a tad more sensational than I’d expected—46 mph is fast for an open boat in the Alps in December!

Not long after De Ponte, Proksch, and I returned the Rivarama to her parking spot in the garage, we collectively discovered we were all about half-starved, a state of affairs easily addressed in Italy. So, with snow falling, we joined my wife at the nearby Ristorante Il Chiostro.

The risotto was superb. But not half as superb as the artistically finished, classical performer I continued to marvel at. The Rivarama’s just plain beyond beautiful...and then some.

Riva
(954) 618-0440

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.