Taste of Italy

A WHIRL­WIND TRIP TO NORTH­ERN ITALY AND A SEA TRIAL OF AZ­IMUT’S 55 FLY RE­VEALS THE RECIPE TO THE BRAND’S SE­CRET SAUCE. BY DANIEL HARD­ING JR.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Dan Hard­ing heads to the Lig­urian Sea to sea-trial Az­imut’s 55 Fly, where he dis­cov­ers the se­crets of its suc­cess.

SSavona is a fairly in­dus­trial port in moun­tain­ous North­ern Italy. Work­boats, cranes and ware­houses line the shore near the Lig­urian Sea. Nes­tled in the crook of the in­ner har­bor, how­ever, is a mi­cro­cosm of lux­ury: Az­imut’s fi­nal fit out and launch­ing lo­ca­tion. Dozens of new models, from coupes to fly­bridge mo­to­ry­achts, gleam un­der the mid­day sum­mer sun. I’ve been aboard count­less Az­imuts, but—like meet­ing a girl­friend’s par­ents for the first time—it’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to see where she comes from.

I spy the new Az­imut S6 rest­ing un­der a shroud of plas­tic wait­ing to be painted and a 60 fly­bridge mo­to­ry­acht un­der a test shed be­ing sprayed with wa­ter and tested for leaks. Var­i­ous new models are be­ing prepped and pol­ished, while count­less more sit at a dock wait­ing to be shipped to own­ers.

The thought of test­ing them all creeps into my mind. How long would that take? Could I ex­pense an apart­ment for a month? How much weight would I gain while liv­ing in the land of lin­guini? Even­tu­ally, my jet­lagged brain snaps back to re­al­ity and the busi­ness at hand: test­ing the builder’s new 55 Fly.

The 55 has a sporty ex­te­rior, courtesy of Ste­fano Righ­ini. A raked wind­shield, plumb bow and sharp an­gled lines—from the hull chine

to the fly­bridge hard­top—give the boat the type of high-per­for­mance look seen in the builder’s S Class.

Step in­side, how­ever, and the 55 gives off a to­tally dif­fer­ent vibe. Mod­ern is how I would de­scribe the in­te­rior, de­signed by Achille Sal­vagni. Stain­less steel de­tails are ev­ery­where. And ev­ery­where you look you see curved shapes. The salon seat­ing, ta­bles, counter cor­ners— they’re all rounded, which lends the space the feel­ing of a lux­u­ri­ous Ital­ian villa. The rea­son I re­ally like this de­sign has noth­ing to do with style and ev­ery­thing to do with safety; there are no edges or cor­ners to bump into when un­der­way. Safe and stylish, that’s a win­ning com­bi­na­tion in my book.

Be­lowdecks there is a con­ven­tional state­room for­ward and a guest cabin to star­board. The amid­ships mas­ter is where things get in­ter­est­ing. Az­imut can­tilevered the berth, which pro­vides a more open floor plan and room for an ex­cep­tion­ally large four-drawer bureau to port. The win­dows in this state­room are com­pa­ra­ble to liv­ing room win­dows in some homes. They’re that big. Float­ing fur­ni­ture through­out the in­te­rior is a mod­ern touch that is trick­ling down from the lux­ury home and su­pery­acht world. The ac­com­mo­da­tions are rounded out by a cap­tain’s quar­ters aft. In the U.S., I’d wa­ger it will mostly be used for stor­age.

I don’t think many Amer­i­cans will need a cap­tain for a boat this size but I am glad we have one aboard to take us out of the Med-moored­style slip in Savona. With inches to spare on ei­ther side and a cou­ple feet of space be­tween shiny new Az­imuts and a metal shed, this dock­ing chal­lenge tests the cap­tain’s skill and the pre­ci­sion of the joy­stick that’s paired to twin 800-hp MAN I6 diesels.

Aboard for the day is an eclec­tic as­sem­blage. Join­ing me is Brand Man­ager Fed­erico Lan­tero, Com­pany Cap­tain Ni­cola Gallo, my col­league Elena Pa­tri­arca and a trio of PR pro­fes­sion­als who are fa­cil­i­tat­ing the test. I’m no ex­pert on the sub­ject, but judg­ing by how ev­ery­one seems to be re­lax­ing and smil­ing more, I sense this group of busy busi­ness peo­ple is re­mem­ber­ing why they got into the boat­ing in­dus­try in the first place. Away from the dock and the pos­si­bil­ity of €5.5 mil­lion in dam­age (yes, I crunched the num­bers) I take the lower helm in the Lig­urian Sea and bring the boat up to a cruis­ing speed of 22 knots. Vis­i­bil­ity is ex­cep­tional and even though the wa­ter is calm—mir­ror calm al­most—you can feel that this boat is solid and sturdy. I push the throt­tles for­ward and turn the wheel hard over to run us into our wake. What I hear is sur­pris­ing: noth­ing. There’s not a sin­gle creak or moan from the boat or from our crew.

As I make my way to the fly­bridge, I’m quickly joined by the rest of the crew, and ev­ery­one spreads out. (If you get to test a boat off Italy and don’t soak up the sun and fresh air, well, then I just don’t un­der­stand you.)

Up here, I note two things from the helm. One is that the boat has very lit­tle heel in turns. If sporty driv­ing is your thing, you might want to con­sider the Az­imut S Class. The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence aboard the 55 Fly is more fo­cused on com­fort. The sec­ond thing I ob­serve is how much my com­pan­ions seem to be en­joy­ing their time on the wa­ter. My mind wan­ders from driv­ing this boat in cir­cles to putting a proper way­point into the GPS and cruis­ing to some ex­otic port.

Alas, it isn’t meant to be. (Not this time any­way.) As we re­turn to port, Gallo backs us into our space. We tie up with­out in­ci­dent and I fol­low Lan­tero to the bow lounge. Like many Euro­pean builders, Az­imut is in­vest­ing a lot of thought into mak­ing this area a com­fort­able so­cial space. This model has a sun­pad that can fit three adult guests. As more builders be­come con­scious of the amount of time boaters are spend­ing in the sun, they are plac­ing more im­por­tance on ar­eas like the large sun­lounge that Lan­tero calls a “co­coon.” He in­vites me to give it a test. I tell him it’s a bad idea, hav­ing taken a red eye the night be­fore. “I might just hi­ber­nate in this co­coon,” I tell him. I al­most do. Call­ing it a sun­pad re­ally isn’t fair: It’s more like a sun mem­ory-foam mat­tress.

All too soon my time at the Az­imut yard and aboard the 55 Fly comes to an end. For the next few hours I ride shot­gun and com­press my notes as Elena drives, weav­ing us through the dark­en­ing Ital­ian coun­try­side. I think back to the test. I liked the boat, but I can’t quite put my fin­ger on why I en­joyed it so much.

Elena and I even­tu­ally find a small cafe that’s open late for din­ner. I or­der one of the best piz­zas I’ve ever had. Fresh moz­zarella, tomato sauce and buf­falino is blended to­gether per­fectly.

The 55 Fly, I re­al­ize, is kind of like this meal. There is no wild stand­out fea­ture that is par­tic­u­larly new to boat­build­ing. In­stead, Az­imut re­lies on fresh, proven in­gre­di­ents and blends them to­gether seam­lessly. You have a proven base with the boat’s hull de­sign and propul­sion pack­age, a smart lay­out at the heart of the model and all of it is topped off by so­phis­ti­cated Ital­ian styling. It’s some­thing that is some­times hard to put into words. It just works.

LOA: 55'5" Beam: 16'1" Displ.: 58,000 lbs. Fuel: 607 gal. Wa­ter: 156 gal. Power: 2/800-hp MAN I6 diesel Price (ap­prox.): $1,253,000

From the cock­pit seat­ing through the salon, it’s hard to find a sharp cor­ner any­where—mak­ing the boat stylish, but more im­por­tantly, safe.

Through­out the in­te­rior of the 55 Fly, world-renowned ar­chi­tect Achille Sal­vagni in­cor­po­rated styling cues from the lux­ury home mar­ket.

As many have come to ex­pect, the helm is ex­cep­tion­ally clean and sight­lines are ex­cel­lent. Large win­dows al­low a sum­mer breeze to wan­der in.

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