Via Coppino, one of the arteries along which the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous will be held, which will animate Viareggio from 9 to 12 May, has a characteristic that is almost unique in the world, shared only by the streets that surround it.
Along its almost 1,000 metres some of the most important names in the world nautical industry coexist with small craftsmen, who may be less well-known to those who do not visit the town directly, but who are fundamental in creating the humus in which many of the best nautical shipbuilding products are developed.
For example, the Comunione Ereditaria di Bertacca Egisto, known as Forniture navali Bertacca, founded by its founder Italo Bertacca 100 years ago at the end of the First World War as a garaging and repair shop for small boats and a service centre for the shipwrights and caulkers of the time. After the Second World War, with the help of his son Egisto, a warehouse was opened for the sale of products for the maintenance of the famous Viareggio motorsailers and fishing boats. In the 1960s, the first boom in the shipbuilding industry renewed the merchandise sales and the collaboration of the third generation of the family began, leading to the present day.
How does what is in fact a shop that is located where yachts are born operate? Does it only work locally or does the fact that it is among people who supply the whole world mean that it also supplies the whole world?
Italo Bertacca, the current head of the business, replies: "The clientele is certainly international, a good slice of it. We also have shipments abroad, but we usually welcome our customers here".
In short, Via Coppino is a special place where global companies and local shops coexist, when it seems that the globalised world has to exclude the shop on the doorstep.
"Having such important construction sites around us catalyses international customers, so in a way we are global too. Finding a bit of everything you need in the same place also brings people closer to a small shop; the items that make up a boat are so varied and special that owners often want to touch them and so they prefer to come to the shop," Bertacca explains. And when we talk about touching, when we refer to tactile sensations, the mind immediately goes to the fabrics that play such a big part in building the complete image of a yacht's interior. Fabricline is a historic upholstery shop on Via Coppino. It produces made-to-measure textiles, leathers and hides to suit the needs and tastes of its various customers, who may be owners and their wives, architects or even crews. Antonio La Mattina, the company's founder, says: "During the construction of their yachts, they visit our showroom where they can choose products ranging from carpets, curtains, sofas and armchairs to bedspreads and sponge sets, all customised and handcrafted, according to the advice of their architects and supervised by our team of qualified people".
But does the yacht lead to other activities? How much can you expand your clientele and business opportunities by working in Via Coppino?
"Every year, all kinds of yachts built in Viareggio or in transit for refit work pass through the dock, with their retinues of owners of all nationalities and their crews. Very often, customers trust us and, in addition to supplying yachts, they commission us to carry out other projects for private houses and villas," says Antonio, who continues, "The street has always been a strategic point for Viareggio's boating industry, it's our terrace overlooking the sea. Shipyards, textile craftsmen, woodworkers, ironworkers and other professionals together form the strength of the Versilia nautical sector, a force firmly established both nationally and worldwide because they are able to carry out what is commissioned of them on request. This is the reality of our dockyard, people able to work together for the development of this magnificent sector. Able to set in motion the whole other part of Viareggio's reality linked not only to boating, but also to reception such as hotels, restaurants and the cities of art surrounding Versilia. Moreover, the Versilia Yachting Rendezvous has been a great success in terms of public attendance and visibility, highlighting this area and the companies present there".
From the supplier to the one who acts as a collector of so many requests: the shipyard. Overmarine, creator of the famous Mangusta open yachts, which have been joined over time by other lines of yachts, was born right here. We asked Katia Balducci, Managing Director of the Overmarine Group, what does Via Coppino represent for those who reap the benefits of the many skills that lie in this area?"Viareggio is rightly considered the capital of large yachts. Via Coppino is its beating heart: around it are the shipyards and companies that make Italian yachting an excellence recognised all over the world, while here you meet the professionals, the key players, everyone in this sector.But is it thanks to the shipyards that there is Via Coppino or is it thanks to the street that there are shipyards?"I'd say it's thanks to the yards, which in this part of the city have found the spaces and conditions they need to develop and grow," explains the manager, who adds: "From the designers, who design the boats, to the yards, which build them, passing through the artisan companies, which take care of the various processes, the suppliers of accessories, fabrics, various materials and technology experts, right up to the people who dress the crews. Via Coppino is a perfect example of a zero kilometre supply chain. A source of pride.A supply chain that truly combines tradition and innovation, as demonstrated by YES GROUP, a company set up here in Via Coppino by Roman Taraschievich to deal with design, installation, audio/video, IT and communication systems for private yachts, offering services ranging from software development and programming to technical support and on-site assistance. The founder explains: "As we are where the boats dock, customers come into the showroom and we have direct contact with the crew and owner".What is the strength of a company like yours?"It's certainly essential for our work to stay up to date with the latest trendy technologies and thus be attractive to an international audience, but what can make the difference is our all-Italian ability to invent solutions and solve problems quickly and creatively. When you work abroad, you can see how much less likely it is to find so much creative ability, so much inventiveness".Innovation and tradition, we said, and what could be more traditional than metal? Nothing in terms of presence on board, but a lot when you consider how the metal is worked and treated. NUOVA BENYACHT is a company specialising in the processing of stainless steel, including the manufacture of finished products, aluminium, and with an active machine shop. We asked Mauro Agostini, who runs the company, how important it is to be right in the centre of boat production."The proximity is an advantage - we have the Benetti yard 10 metres away, to name but one. We're right in the heart of the dock and we work for everyone: being in the middle of it, the logistics certainly help us. It also makes it easier for us to deal with after-sales when the boats return to port: we're the reference refitting workshop.What sets you apart?"Our strength is the quality and speed of our work. Our product is a niche one, and that's what keeps us going. As Benyachts, our work is a real craftsmanship job, with our hands. The same goes for the ability to always be ready to give the client what he doesn't even expect. Take Bertacca, for example. They work well because they really have everything... I have friends in Miami who call me because there is nothing there that they would like: craftsmanship does not exist there. But I'll tell you something else: even in Livorno, where part of Benetti has moved, you can't find these things here, there isn't a Bertacca in Livorno. There is no Bertacca in Livorno, just as there are no craftsmen anywhere else. The craftsman is a niche, but you can't do without him, especially if you want to offer a very high quality product, which is a fundamental condition for staying on the market, otherwise it's impossible. You really have to create made-to-measure craftsmen, you can't improvise. When a young man arrives, he needs a year and a half to start to be fully formed“.
The light that reflects on the steels of the yachts built in Viareggio (but not only) is often produced by the systems created and installed by Cantalupi, a company founded in 1951 by Bruno Cantalupi and now divided into three companies: Cantalupi Electric System, just opposite the Benetti shipyard, Cantalupi Lighting, with a showroom in Via Coppino, Cantalupi Usa, plus a start-up in 2015 that produces electrical and electronic equipment for yachts. Today this name is one of the world's leading names in on-board lighting and electrical systems, so how important has it been for a company like this to be located in one of the capitals of pleasure boat construction? Leonardo Cantalupi, director of the Cantalupi Group, explains:"It certainly counted a lot because today Viareggio is one of the absolute reference points for pleasure boats, so when we are abroad and they ask us what our background is, it is very easy to explain where we come from. Unfortunately, I have to say that Viareggio used to be a better business card in the past, but now it's less so. I am a bit critical because we could do more, we are losing ground, there are other places, especially in northern Europe, that have organised themselves very well and this is to our detriment. We are obliged to regain ground, but small and medium-sized enterprises cannot do it alone, and the shipyards have to be the driving force. It is an obligation to become competitive again, but this concerns the whole Italian system.So it's thanks to the yards that Via Coppino exists?"I would say quite the opposite. Before, they used to produce everything in-house, but today they are coordinating organisations that organise what the ship will be, the craftsmanship is external, the shipyard is an organisational structure.How can such a special place, where global and local companies coexist when it seems that the globalised world has to exclude the local shop, exist?"Two aspects must be taken into account. One, in addition to the shipyards, Viareggio now has a marina, which requires assistance, hardware, lighting, etc.; two, local craftsmanship allows the shipyard to offer extreme customisation. The shipyards themselves go to that natural commercial centre that is Via Coppino because there they find all the realities that can assist them to realise what they have imagined, to speed up the construction and realisation process," says Leonardo Cantalupi.
And as in any self-respecting shopping centre, Via Coppino has everything yachts need from birth to daily use, such as fuel and lubricants, the main "foodstuffs" of every yacht. Termopetroli, which now has offices all over the Mediterranean and operations all over the world, has bunker & ecology as its pay-off. It sounds like an oxymoron... but, explains Francesco Biancini, the company's Sales Manager: "We limit the impact of something that could be much more impactful. We take care of cleaning boat tanks and engine rooms from all the residues that oil or fuel can leave behind: that is boat pollution. We supply diesel to the boats and we also have another company that deals with cleaning the tanks and engine rooms".
How much is your work influenced by the fact that there is a Via Coppino?
Via Coppino has helped us a lot in terms of visibility. We used to be on the parallel street, Via Paolo Savi, but those 300 metres as the crow flies have allowed us to get into the heart of the dock and we have achieved excellent results. Via Coppino is synergy and union is strength: a pharmacy would also work in Via Coppino“.