As fashion week closes in Paris this week, a different kind of model is still parading around on Italy’s Ligurian coast. Down here the models are certainly strutting, but not down catwalks – they are promenading along the temporary boardwalks at Genoa’s 49th Salone Nautico Internazionale, the citta’s annual boat show and the third in the Med’s season of key fairs for all those who make their living and get their pleasures from gin palaces, yachts and dinghies.
Some 1,450 exhibitors and 2,400 boats are spread out over the fiera’s 300,000 sq m and this year the organisers hope to attract more than 350,000 visitors. Italian trade fairs are similar to Italian game shows: fine-looking fast women slink from screen left to right drawing glances away from the oft-unattractive merchandise and deflecting unwanted attention from the sets and prizes.
Genoa’s organisers and exhibitors are evidently astute sales-folk. This sleight of eye is a pleasing distraction from the repetitive strain of boarding the vessel, touring the vessel, smelling the vessel, touching the vessel, disembarking the vessel and repeating the process ad nauseam. With so many white fibreglass diesel-engined cruisers to consider my thoughts and attentions invariably turn to the maritime mass that has gathered to salute the leisure craft industry.
Every visitor has come dressed for a day at sea, yet many won’t even board a boat. You have to hand it to the Italians: they always make the hand-stitched effort. The Italian men have all dug into Dickie Greenleaf’s Riviera trunk for handmade blue shirts, sun-faded pullovers and crumple-free khaki chinos. Most of these guys couldn’t tie a bowline to save them from drowning, but the intricate knots to keep their sweaters drawn tight around their waists would make Marco Polo proud. Portsiders, topsiders, car pumps and deck shoes pad in silent contrast to the footfall of their companions who clop alongside in high heels and wedges – the girls are all fitted trousers and dark sunglasses for Alice bands.
It is the Italian manufacturers such as Genovese builder Rivolta, Fratelli Aprea and Parisi who have most impressed at the port. Perhaps the stand that drew most attention was the Ferretti berth. With a total of nine brands under the Ferretti parasol, this Italian manufacturer is one of the few exhibitors whose exposition at Genoa is as well-appointed as its ocean-going vessels.
Ferretti’s Riva and Mochi Craft pitches were the standout attractions. This summer saw the launch of the Riva 86′ Domino, the brand’s sportiest number to date. According to many manufacturers buyers have been reluctant to test the water this year, given the tepid times. However, it hasn’t stopped the biggeset spenders from splashing out on larger vessels, and it was those brands, including Azimut and Ferretti that dominated the Piazzale Marina. “We debuted the Domino and sold two at the Cannes Salon Nautique last month and we have already sold one here at Genoa. All things considered that’s a pretty good result, one we weren’t necessarily expecting,” smiles Riva’s Alessandra Viola on a bare-foot tour of the 26-metre yacht. I still prefer the classicism of the Aquariva, but if it’s brute Metallic Ice-tinted force you want to leave in your wake, then the Domino is an understatement in overstatement, much like the Genoa Boat Show itself.