Classic Boats: 6 wooden boats that are Made in Italy masterpieces (6-16 m)

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Triton Bank
Riva Tritone | Michel deRuijter © 2014

Speaking of Classic Boats, wooden hulls and Made in Italy excellence, two boats probably immediately spring to mind: the Riva Aquarama and the Avvocato G-50. Yet, still with sinuous, soft, and decidedly iconic shapes, there are many other boats, timeless classics of our native tradition. Most enthusiasts will already know them; for others, however, they may be pleasant discoveries. Regardless, here are 6 wooden Classic Boats that are absolute masterpieces of Italian shipbuilding.

Classic Boats: 6 wooden boats, cult of Made in Italy

From the lakes to the Riviera, the Belpaese has always been a builder of flawless hulls, exceptional boats signed by equally iconic names: Riva, Rio, Baglietto or Sangermani. Below, leaving out the most classic and talked-about ones, we will look at 6 masterpieces signed by these “enlightened” brands.


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Baglietto - Ischia
Baglietto Ischia, one of 6 Classic Boats in this article

Classic Boats. Riva Olympic – 6.5 m

Few boats are more iconic than the Riva Aquarama. At the same time, few Rivas are more pleasant, versatile, and charming (as well as relatively inexpensive) than the small and wonderful Riva Olympic. At 6.55 meters long, 38 knots strong and designed for a young audience, the small Olympic is a marriage of practicality and luxury, a design as elegant as it is functional.

Riva Olympic Classic Boats
Riva Olympic – Image Credits Robbe & Berking Classics : Baum & König

Clear bow, curved dashboard, double settee serving the wheelhouse, and full-beam sundeck to the transom. All wrapped in the class and elegance that only a wooden Riva can have. Here, with touches of white paint to crown it all. In short, today as then, the ideal boat for joyrides, day trips and picnics in the roadstead in the name of the dolce vita.

Read our in-depth article on Riva Olympic here.

Riva Olympic
Riva Olympic

Classic Boats. Rolls Rio – 6.7 m

Automotive and boating are two distant worlds, but much more in touch with each other than it seems. Partly because they often participate in the same “glamour,” partly because of commercial necessity, and often because of technical solutions. Entering this segment in 1965, Rio produced a small jewel, a sleek, stately, 6.7-meter Rolls Royce-powered Rolls: the Rolls Rio, the Rolls Royce of the sea.

Classic Boats. Rolls Rio
Rolls Rio; 1965

Powered by a single Rolls Royce LM-841 8-cylinder V-engine with 6,230cc displacement for a power output of 240 horsepower, the little Rio was a 43-knot missile. A missile yes elegant, but also comfortable. The look is classic 1960s, the lines are sleek, clean, with a short bow to engage just a quarter of the hull length, just ahead of the windshield. Behind, however, the cockpit and wheelhouse occupied the center of the boat with two armchair seats followed by a full-beam sofa. To provide more volume, simulating a sundeck, the pilot and co-pilot seats then provided fold-down backrests, thus creating a kind of sundeck connected to the sofa.

Read our in-depth article on the Rolls Rio here.

Rolls Rio; 1965

Rio Espera – 6.9 m

Sarnico is a semi-cult place for boating enthusiasts, the birthplace of Rio and Riva. And it was here, on Lake Iseo, that in the late 1950s the then Avionautica Rio began its conversion to the marine industry, abandoning glider production. Its first ever hull was born, a small masterpiece: the Rio Espera. With initial 6.6 meters, later to become 6.9 overall, she is an absolute cult, a 37-knot classic strong with timeless lines, full of an evergreen elegance that seems, at times, unrepeatable.

Rio Espera
Rio Espera

Like a good 1960s runabout, the cockpit comes to life from the middle of the boat toward the bow, with a curved windshield to protect the occupants. Here, two rows of seats serve the wheelhouse and any two passengers, with an additional 3 seats in a small sofa just aft, served by a fold-down table. In some versions, a sundeck then takes its place in the stern, further expanding space. Another little classic, in short, strictly made of wood.

Read our in-depth article on the Rio Espera here.

Rio Espera
Rio Espera

Classic Boats – Riva Tritone – 7.9 m

Riva is a myth, synonymous with la dolce vita, Portofino, the lakes and the Côte d’Azur. An image that seldom fails to evoke art-house film contexts and, above all, its mahogany jewels moored to the docks, strong with an elegance perhaps never seen again. Crowning this image, however, was not the Riva that everyone believes, but its older brother, the first to arrive to rout the market. The Riva Triton. Built of mahogany, first solid planking, then laminated, it was a masterful boat, able to remain at the top of the range for more than a decade.

Classic Boats - Riva Tritone
Triton Bank

Look and layout are textbook: short bow, curved windshield, settee in wheelhouse and second settee just behind this first one. As a good Riva, then, it exists in several versions, including those with and without a stern sundeck. It is a classic, prototypical “turtleneck” runabout. The stern is gorgeous.

Read our in-depth article on the Riva Triton here.

Riva Tritone | Photo by Michel deRuijter C 2014

Baglietto Elba – 11.3 m

Other sizes, other style. Forget dolce vita-style runabouts, forget crystal-clear lakes or windless rivieras. With Baglietto we go into the ante-litteram “weekender” world, the world of “early cruisers.” It was 1958 when a newly designed hull was launched in Varazze, Liguria. Success was immediate. The first Italian production motoryacht, the Baglietto Elba, had been born.

Baglietto Elba

Sleek lines, high and long deckhouse, windshield to protect a large cockpit and revolutionary, spacious cabins. Everything is on board, crew room, double master cabin, toilet, galley and salon, with 3 additional beds, to explore the Riviera like never before. Baglietto signs revolution, opens up the world of motor yachting. And it’s doing 26 knots!

Read our in-depth article on the Baglietto Elba here.

Classic Boats Made in Italy
Baglietto Elba – Image of a launching; author and date unknown (CC BY)

Baglietto Ischia – 16 m

Concluding this brief first review is a cult, a milestone: the Baglietto Ischia, a 16-meter boat like few others, an emblematic design of post-World War II reconstruction. Elegant and strong with 7 berths (including two for crew), the Ischia is one of the most successful yachts of the time, with a production of no less than 72 units in just 6 years (’59-65)-numbers that take on even more significance in a context of semi-craft production with planking construction. The Super-Ischia version, for cinephiles, appears in “Il Sorpasso,” just to say…

Classic Boats
Baglietto Ischia

Powered by up to 1,200 horsepower and capable of top speeds between 29 and 35 knots, the Ischia was a revolution in itself, a luxury cruiser, complete with every amenity needed for yachting at the time: 2 double cabins, a twin for the crew, a convertible saloon with bunks, a full galley and two bathrooms. As well as a great cockpit and space to spare. In short, it was immediately a cult object, and rightly so, it continues to be.

Read our in-depth article on the Baglietto Ischia here.

Baglietto - Ischia Classic Boats
Baglietto, Ischia Super

Discover Classic Boats from previous articles

At this link you can find all the other great Classic Boats, and if you have one and want to tell us about it, here are the instructions for uploading it to our dedicated section so you can celebrate it with us and all the enthusiasts

  • Here is one of the last articles in the series:

Dart 38 (11 m), la ricetta per “volare” a 76 nodi nei primi anni ’70

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