Paola Barcella, crossed destinies

Paola Barcella has inherited Anna Scarani’s style, approach and ability to always be in tune with others. She plays a key role in Rio Yachts’ corporate strategy

by Carla Pagani – photo by Andrea Muscatello

PAOLA BARCELLA JOINED THE COMPANY WHEN SHE WAS JUST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OLD, NEWLY GRADUATED AND WITH A GREAT DESIRE TO LEARN. Her meeting with the Lady of Italian yachting, Anna Scarani, proved a decisive factor in everything that came afterwards. Twelve years of satisfaction-packed hard work have passed since then.

She has a dazzling smile and shiny eyes, as well as being very talkative and energetic, with a great drive to get things done. «My entry into the company was something extraordinary. I was very young, just setting out. Mrs Scarani decided to pass me the baton and that’s how I learned all about communication. My apprenticeship was very dynamic, exciting and challenging all at the same time. I now look after many other aspects of the company». Indeed, the Scarani family has total faith in Paola, who plays a strategic part in many key aspects of Rio Yachts.

Now in her early thirties, she possesses a thorough knowledge of different roles and tasks. «You need great flexibility, dynamism, a global approach and endless curiosity». You also obviously need to be able to multitask and have great organisational skills. «I think that us women are the only ones really able to look after so many things at the same time, adopting an overall vision and keeping everything together».

However, the biggest legacy is the one left by Anna Ziliani Scarani who, together with her husband Luigi Scarani, had the idea of founding the yard on the shores of Lake Iseo during the period of the Dolce Vita, turning it into a real Italian manufacturing gem over the years.

Anna Scarani
Anna Scarani

Rio Yachts has always been ahead of its time, not only in terms of production but also because women have always played a fundamental role there. «Mrs Scarani came up with the idea of press conferences in the 1960s». No one really thought about communication at the time. This brilliant and highly intelligent woman immediately grasped the strategic value of brand communication. «Mrs Scarani was undoubtedly my mentor, as well as a role model for my life. She placed her total trust in me, allowing me to gradually take over the role she had covered so admirably».

Anna Scarani revolutionised the world of yachting. Even today, at the age of eighty-four, she still continues to contribute with her ideas and intuitions, even though she has left the firm now.

The ability to build networks, to establish relationships and to look after the company and its clients, but also those who are not yet clients. Paola Barcella has inherited Anna Scarani’s style, approach and capacity to always be in tune with others. «These are skills that have to be put into play with a certain tenacity, because I think there is still a lot of resistance to women’s involvement in the world of yachting and beyond. We have to have great confidence in ourselves and be strong».

Rio Yachts
Espera 34

As well as being a very significant twelve years for Barcella, a considerable period of time has also passed for Rio Yachts: the Chiuduno-based firm will turn sixty next year. «Rio Yachts succeeded in tackling the economic crisis with great courage and skill. It is one of the few Italian yachting firms that has always remained in the hands of the same family». Rio, currently headed by Piergiorgio Scarani, has always focused on Italian-made excellence and quality, continuing to carry out all its production in Italy and focusing on an elite clientele. «Rio began by making unique wooden sailplanes and motorboats. Craftsmanship was fundamental», explains Barcella. «Today it’s a bit like we’ve gone back to our origins. Every vessel has a soul of its own and is custom-made. The era of globalisation and mass consumption is behind us. And all our boats are made to measure».

Rio Yachts knows something about mass consumption. The Scarani family firm revolutionised the way the Italians experience the sea.

In the 1970s, Rio launched a revolutionary product on the market: the Rio 310, a small and lightweight boat made from ABS, a thermoplastic material. This marked the company’s move from craftsmanship to industry. It built more than 50,000 Rio 310s. «We filled trains with our little boats. It was a real revolution». The era of boating for everyone had begun. The history of Rio Yachts incorporates the history of modern yachting.

Rio Granturismo 60
Granturismo 60

«The yard has always managed to modernise itself and change, while listening closely to its customers at all times, anticipating new fashions and trends», explains Barcella. We shouldn’t forget that it was Rio Yachts that introduced the rigid top in the 1980s, which went on to become the hard top.

Barcella is looking eagerly to the future. «We have lots of plans in mind for our sixtieth birthday. We’ll be introducing a new entry-level product called Daitona in Genoa. We’re also working on a more important boat for next year. We’ve decided to focus on Genoa first and foremost because we’re Italian. And the national market is very important». It’s therefore a question of tradition, professionalism, solidity and innovation.

Rio Parana' 38
Parana' 38

Rio Yachts, a flagship for Italian production, will turn sixty next year. It has taken part in fifty-nine  boat shows held in Genoa.

These are the nouns that Paola rattles off with great decision when, just before saying our goodbyes, we ask her for the best words to describe Rio Yachts. These terms provide a perfect description of her too. Tradition: Barcella has absorbed it all, thanks to the lessons received from the Scarani family. Professionalism: she carries out her work in a highly competent, dedicated and entrepreneurial manner. Solidity: that of a woman able to manage complex processes and keep everything under control. And lastly, the innovation of someone who can look to the future with dynamism and a desire to always do better.  A tale of “crossed destinies”, to paraphrase the title of the famous book by Italo Calvino. A wonderful example of an intergenerational encounter and exchange that we can all learn from.

Sport Coupè 56
Sport Coupè 56

(Paola Barcella, crossed destinies – – August 2020)