The Soul of a Duchess: Riva Introduces the 92 Duchessa Megayacht

The CEO and lead interior designer of the famed Italian shipyard, Riva, take readers on an exploration of their award-winning megayacht, the 92 Duchessa.


 “As tradition, our suppliers are the best Italian craftsmen who specialize in working leather. Riva is famous for top-quality materials, and all of the leathers we use must be very soft, but resistant.”

Rarely is a profile written about the luxury yacht brand Riva that it does not include the revered list of VIPs who have owned and been photographed on the Italian vessels. But it is not just because Riva dates back to 1842 or that it has been favored by the likes of Aristotle Onassis and Brigitte Bardot that make its storied history legendary among the aficionados. Ask CEO Ferruccio Rossi what makes Riva so special and he eloquently defines it as soul: “A soul born out of the passion and commitment of the men and women who have played a part in its creation; a soul shaped by the love and enthusiasm of the owners who confirm their loyalty to the brand and its values. These are the people who have created the Riva legend and are an integral part of it.”

Breathing the first signs of life into all of the Riva models is the head visionary designer Mauro Micheli who began working for the Italian shipyard 25 years ago. In 1994, he and his business partner Sergio Beretta founded the independent design firm Officina Italiana Design and have remained the exclusive Riva designers since that time. “Mauro perfectly knows our history, our tradition, and our values, and he is always able to include them in all of the Riva models that he designs. He and his team at Officina Italiana Design are the perfect interpreters of our philosophy,” says Rossi.

The latest megayacht model to launch under the stroke of Micheli’s magic pencil is the award-winning 92 Duchessa. This ship was conceived in order to fill the gap between the 115 Athena, the flagship of the fleet, and the 85 Opera Super. Micheli walked us through his process for designing the luxury yacht. “A little more than one year before the official presentation of the boat, I started drawing a few lines and showed them to the management of the shipyard and to Mr. Ferretti, the chairman of our parent company, Ferretti S.p.A. They all loved it! That gave me the energy to move very quickly to make this dream come true,” Micheli explains. Together with his team of five designers, work began on the early stages, which included drafts of curvy, racy lines for the exterior, planning of the interior spaces, and choosing the finest materials available. “It is a true emotion seeing your drawing become real through the hard work of the finest specialized craftsmen.”

Notable features that Micheli envisioned for the Duchessa, apart from its near megayacht-size status, include the fiberglass hard top that shades the flybridge-a novelty for the brand. “I just thought that the hard top would perfectly integrate in the global design of the boat,” he says. The sharp lines of the bimini point towards the bow, providing continuity to the profile of the vessel as well as aerodynamic attributes. According to the designer extraordinaire, a central feature on all Riva boats is the natural lighting in the cabins. On the Duchessa, this was tended to with three, wide rectangular windows, positioned on both sides of the ship, which achieves the goal of radiating sunlight throughout the interiors. Accenting this illumination, Micheli explained that when it came to choosing the interior palette, contrast based on a classic theme was paramount. “The majesty of the Duchessa inspired me to use white in many of the materials such as high-gloss wood, leather, marble, and the furnishings. Then, the elegance of Canaletto walnut was the natural choice to be combined with white. The whole boat is a balanced alternation of white and brown and creates such a chic contrast.”

His inspiration for the distinct color scheme and the finishing details found throughout the ship’s interiors originated from the luxury classics: Hèrmes and Louis Vuitton. “I was inspired by [their] old, stylish suitcases and trunk sets,” he explains as he details some of Duchessa’s crown jewel features such as the stitched leather handles and drawer fronts as well as the hand-sewn leather inserts in the bulkheads. Expounding on Riva’s historic use of such quality leather, Micheli explains, “As tradition, our suppliers are the best Italian craftsmen who specialize in working leather. Riva is famous for top-quality materials, and all of the leathers we use must be very soft, but resistant. We wanted to add significant details to the objects in leather such as hand-sewn stitches. There are also many leather inserts: in the bulkheads, the coffee table in the salon, the dormouse in the master cabin, even the Venetian tents are covered in white leather-my favorite!”

In addition to choosing the finest quality materials for the interiors, Micheli and Riva’s internal team of designers and engineers also envisioned the floor plan for the Duchessa as an environment that would encourage tranquility while out on the open seas. The master cabin of this master ship, located astern, features a walk-in wardrobe and vanity unit, along with a full beam, his-and-hers bath fitted with a shower and Jacuzzi. The VIP suite is full beam as well, and almost mimics the dimensions of the master suite, minus a few square feet in the bath. Further accommodations include two twin guest cabins, while three additional cabins, all with en-suite baths, allow for a captain and crew team of four members.

So many design details and so much quality leather, combined with such a classic color palette, translates into a space that is the epitome of the luxury that defines the Riva brand, and explains why, according to Riva’s CEO, the waiting list is 15 months long. Customers are eager to join the exclusive Riva family and Rossi explains one of the reasons why: “The special annual events we organize for our owners are true family reunions, with rules and customs that are exclusive to the Riva lifestyle-most importantly sharing and re-proposing the uncompromised excellence which permeates and is created in our products. These events give owners the opportunity to reaffirm their place in a real world, the Riva world, a world which they feel they fully belong to because it responds to their wishes and stands for the values they believe in…Our owners are central to our work: our mission is to anticipate their requests by offering products which will become part of the Riva legend.”