The coastal town of Viareggio on the Versilia coast has a certain charm that has always made me feel like I am stepping back into a glamourous past. The boardwalk of art deco luxury hotels and designer boutiques set the foreground for the long stretch of beach that in Summer is lined with umbrellas from the many bagnos or private beach clubs that people flock to each year.
Today, Viareggio is still a place of glamour but also for an industry that services an elite selection of clients from around the world. This is where some of the world’s largest and most exclusive superyachts are built. The town has been home to the shipping industry since 1819 when the first dock or darsena as it is called in Italian was built during the rule of Maria Luisa, Duchessa of Lucca. The town has developed to become a major international shipbuilding location having also been the place where many military vessels were built. Surprisingly, the superyachts of today have a lot in common with a military vessel and so these superyachts are built by a highly skilled team of engineers, product managers and artisans. One wouldn’t expect much less from the region of Tuscany though, known for its high quality of design, art and craftmanship with marble, leather, fashion and architecture.
One local company renowned for their very high quality and expertise of building superyachts is Benetti, one of the oldest builders of luxury motoryachts in the world.
Founded in 1873 by Lorenzo Benetti (1844-1914) who bought the Darsena Lucca shipyard, initially known to build commercial vessels including wooden fishing boats and Mediterranean trading ships. When Lorenzo, passed, his sons Gino and Emilio took over, renaming the yard Fratelli Benetti and they quickly built up a reputation that spread far and wide.
With the disappearance of commercial sailing vessels built from wood, Benetti changed direction and began producing pleasure craft made from steel. The boatyard produced its first luxury mega yachts in the early 1960’s and would go on to produce an enviable fleet of big motor yachts in the 30 – 60 meter range and beyond, one of their most famous being the 86-meter ‘Nabila’, which was used in the James Bond film, ‘Never Say Never’. Launched in 1979, and designed by Jon Bannenberg for Adnan Kashoggi, “Nabila” became the most famous yacht of her time.
Today Benetti is a modern, technologically advanced and innovative boatyard. It was acquired in 1985 by the celebrated Turin-based boat builder Azimut Spa who then also acquired the Fratelli Orlando shipyard in Livorno in 2003 increasing the companies production capacity. Benetti still proudly retains its traditional values of experience, skill and a passion for fine craftsmanship.
With 145 years of history, more than 350 boats built, over 300,000 sq meters of production facilities at two shipyards, both located in Tuscany, 4 global offices and close to 30 awards for their superior craftsmanship. Benetti is showing no sign of slowing down.
“Our mission is to deliver a product built to the highest quality standards
recognised by the international megayacht industry.”
Building a superyacht can take years and cost millions. Today, many buyers want a custom built, bespoke boat and when it comes to superyachts, the bigger the better! Boat building can be quite a risky business considering the time involved to make a vessel and the risk that while you may be investing in the production of one design, someone might prefer something else. But it is also a huge advantage to have an instantly-available boat ready for that wealthy customer used to getting what they want when they want it!
The interior of the yacht is as important as the exterior and most of today’s super yachts are known for their luxury interiors that feature the latest design and technology. Benetti offers their own ‘Yachtique Styling Lounge’, the ultimate interior design service for new owners. Here, together with Benetti’s experienced staff, one can select every detail, from the textiles, linens, tableware and furniture from the world’s top brands.
Who wouldn’t want to live their life sailing the seas if you could travel in the style and luxury of a superyacht! And while there might be cheaper options available in other parts of the world, Viareggio is known and respected for its artistic design and flair and ‘Made in Italy’ just sounds so much more in line with the luxury you would expect from these super ‘Tuscan’ yachts!