Colours of La Dolce Vita
Azure, sepia, turquoise shorelines… old cities, villages, lakes, ice capped mountains, cathedrals. This pretty much sums up the ambience of my journey to Cannes, France and Sarnico & Milan, Italy.
Last September, I found my way to Europe again, within a window of a month (last being Netherlands). This particular time, it was France and Italy, and it’s in part courtesy from Ferretti Group. I was slated to attend the Cannes Yachting Festival 2017 and Riva Yacht’s birthplace, a shipyard with a 175-year old history that began way back in 1842. The journey started on a Sunday from KLIA, on a lonesome night flight, arriving first at Schiphol 13 hours later, 6am local time. It was in Schiphol that I was to meet up with Mr. Oh Kean Shen of Pen Marine, to journey together to Cannes for the Cannes Yachting Festival 2017. The next flight to Nice departed at about 9am and would take about 2 hours. There was nothing out of the ordinary, except for the descend to Nice because I got to set my eyes on Côte d’Azur. It is beautiful; mesmerising azure waters lining the contrasting sepia coast of France filled the small view of the window of the aircraft. Sail boats, yachts, super yachts & mega yachts can be seen scattered around, floating about serenely on those blue waters. I even spotted the many occasional private jets circling the airspace, all presumably awaiting their landing. This got me real excited to say the least. Nice welcomed us at about 11am, and Mr. Oh and I proceeded to make our way towards Cannes. Upon arrival about 45 minutes later, familiar sights of yachts welcomed us at Cannes and though the show is deemed to be of a smaller scale in terms of yacht sizes, in comparison to the Monaco Yacht Show, it is still a whole lot bigger than the Singapore Yacht Show we are more familiar with.
More yachts, more masts with flags, and of course the people, mostly clad in white with fedora, panama and sun styled hats, all embracing the atmosphere of Cannes. We’ve all heard of or probably seen through TV the high society, celebrity ambience of Cannes, but to witness Boulevard de la Croisette lined up with luxury brands, filled with drop-top supercars running about… that is indescribable. Surreal in fact. We then made way to our separate hotels to check in, freshen up and out again for lunch – myself at Hotel Barrière Le Grey d’Albion while Mr. Oh at JW Marriott further down Boulevard de la Croisette. We met up for lunch, where the seasoned show goer Mr. Oh recommended Astoux et Brun. It’s a fun and lively fresh seafood brasserie situated right across the marina promenade. Apparently, it has been around since 1953. I’m personally not a fan of seafood due to an allergic reaction if the seafood isn’t fresh (I sometimes face breathing difficulties as my throat closes up when the seafood isn’t fresh or if it’s overly fishy).
So, I ordered a safe choice – spaghetti with salmon while Mr. Oh ordered a cold seafood platter to share. To start off, we were served miniature snails and a serving of various bread for starters. Then came the huge servings of mains and to my surprise, the seafood was good and really fresh not to mention juicy. I ate the oysters, the lobster, the prawns and even the snails without any fuss though I was reluctant at first, but I thought why not? Of course, I couldn’t finish the meal as it was too big of a portion even when we shared them out. The entire meal for 3 with a bottle of wine, came up to 100 Euros. Dollar to dollar, that’s actually cheap as something like that in Malaysia (if they have) would cost in the region of at least MYR100++ per pax upwards. After lunch, we did some walking around the alleys of Cannes, before going back to the hotel to have a short rest. I had a Ferretti Group dinner to attend in the night. It was quick, as within a few short hours, it was already time for dinner. I met up with the lovely Ms. Beatrice of Ferretti Group Asia at the hotel lobby, and grouped up with the other media representatives from other parts of Asia. Then it was a short walk to dinner, surprisingly to the same place Astoux et Brun.
By this time, I would have guessed that this is the most popular place in Cannes to have great seafood, and it was confirmed by Ms. Beatrice, mentioning that every year during Cannes Yachting Festival, every manufacturer and clients alike congregates at this small cosy place to eat. The night carried on till about 10pm, where all of us from the media industry were merry in getting to know each other, as well as getting to know the people from Ferretti Group more. Inevitably though, the long travels started to wear in and most of us who arrived the same day were starting to feel the fatigue, hence, we adjourned back to our hotels to get much needed rest.
The yachts premiered were the Ferretti Yachts 920 and 780, Pershing 9X, Riva 100′ Corsaro, Riva 56′ Rivale & Custom Line Navetta 33 while the restyled yacht was the 550 Restyling. Of the premiers, we had the chance to go onboard the impressive Riva 100′ Corsaro and the Pershing 9X. Both as interesting – Riva 100′ Corsaro for the famed Riva build, and Pershing 9X due to the surface drives, which blends both luxury and performance in one craft. There was supposed to be a sea trial scheduled, but due to the strong waves and winds, it was cancelled. There wasn’t much time after the press conference as well, as we had to grab a quick lunch, check out and make our way to Sarnico, Italy by 2:30pm.
Lunch was nevertheless extravagant at La Plage Barrière Le Majestic, a restaurant at the edge of Cannes beachfront overlooking the Golfe de la Napoule (Gulf of Napoule) with sunbathers on the beach and superyachts moored out at sea. With Le Viex Port on the right, sights of helicopters can be seen landing and taking off every few minutes ferrying guest of the prestige festival. Such is the ambiance of Cannes.
Just by the very sight of its rustic walls, I could tell that Castello Oldofredi is a historical mansion, with those, big old castle-like wooden doors. It sits atop a hill majestically with old olive trees, overlooking the magnificent scenery of Lake Iseo. There wasn’t much to see in the night by the time we reached, except for the glimmer of lights from the town across the lake. It was blissfully peaceful and serene. After our check-in to the old manor, dinner was awaiting us at the terrace of the hotel. It was a quaint atmosphere each moment; a cool breeze on a fading summer’s night, overlooking the lake with flickering lights across… “I could live here” I thought to myself instantly! It provided the sweetest night cap for a good rest for the next day’s visit to the famed Riva shipyard.
This Sarnico boatyard in the heart of the Franciacorta region near Bergamo, was founded on the shores of Lago d’Iseo in 1842 and represents the driving force behind Riva’s history as the place where it all began, from its legendary wooden hulls to the modern, 27 to 68-foot yachts of today. The heart of the boatyard also used to be the office of the Riva’s founder, Mr. Carlo Riva, which he himself designed personally with particular focus on functionality. Known as the “la Plancia” which in English means ‘the bridge’, it sits under the main beam of the work shed with its 40-metre wide arch supporting two bridge cranes, each capable of lifting yachts weighing over 20 tons. This architectural masterpiece can be seen from the other side of the lake and is protected by the Superintendency for Environmental and Architectural Heritage, along with the entire boatyard. The site covers a total area of approximately 36,000 square meters with about 17,000 square metres of enclosed facilities, and has 10 moorings, 2 jib cranes, 4 paint sheds and a trolley with a capacity of 50 tons used for transporting the finished yachts to the jetty and for the handling of hulls or bulky items.
The brand also has another production site at La Spezia in Liguria, Italy, setup in order to expand the firm’s production capacity and product range. After starting operations in 2004, it is now a reference point for Ferretti Group because of the technical, logistic and commercial support it provides in the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian region. The boatyard at La Spezia covers a total area of over 60,000 square metres with almost 13,000 square meters of enclosed facilities, including industrial work sheds and office buildings, as well as about 400 metres of piers and jetties that are serviced by a 300-ton travel lift. Not only are the largest yachts in the range built at this state-of-the-art site, it is also the most important centre for the current testing, launching and delivery of Ferretti Group yachts. The site also offers mooring and servicing facilities for customers of all the Group’s brands. Hopefully one day I’ll get to visit this facility as well. What struck me throughout the tour though, is in how the Riva and Ferretti heritage, is tied strongly to the ‘la dolce vita’ era, or ‘the sweet life’.
It dawned on me how Rivas were stars in their distant past, and quite a number of films and blockbusters have used Rivas with even celebrities arriving in Rivas becoming a statement of its time. Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Lauren, George Clooney and Sean Connery are just some to name the few. Even royalty, princes and sheiks own Rivas. Then we proceeded to go through the shipyard on the various processes on how a Riva Yacht is actually made and put together, most of which are the brainchild of the late Mr. Carlo Riva, a technologically advanced set of methods and processes during its heydays of course.Carlo Riva is known as the pioneer of Riva’s golden age, a true Master shipbuilder who made the brand what it is today and whose boat design became a status symbol to many as I mentioned before. Some of the models that propelled the Riva marque are Ariston, Tritone, Sebino and Florida, and course, the same Aquarama we were ferried in to this tour, that was unveiled in 1962. According to the tour guides, the Aquarama is considered a legend because of how timeless it is. I also learnt here how Riva has a strong affiliation to Ferrari family, as well as with Fiat. As we went through to the end of the production line, there were historic models being displayed, and amongst them was one Riva 32 Ferrari, inspired by the then Ferrari Testarossa. Also amongst the Riva yachts, were Fiat special editions in collaboration with Riva Yachts.