The newest trend for express cruisers in North American waters is based on a centuries-old Italian fishing boat. The traditional gozzo rounded stern and bow are immediately recognizable, and while the original style featured masts and sails, today’s interpretations are more likely to have planing hulls and high-performance engines.
But true aficionados are just as enamored with the Rubenesque design and romantic history of the vessel as they are with its modern handling characteristics, viewing the gozzo as the ideal platform for a prized one-off rather than a cookie-cutter acquisition. “We spend a lot of time customizing the boats— like a tailor-made suit,” says Giovanni Aprea, sales director of Apreamare, whose family has been in the business since 1849.
Apreamare, based along Italy’s Gulf of Naples, has the richest heritage among those specialist builders keeping the gozzo going. And as the first yard to develop a planing gozzo, it has also been most willing to embrace new style-specific trends. Even with all the curves, Apreamare’s popular 35-footer is the spitting image of a center-console craft, but with its semicircular swim platform and rounded bow, there’s no mistaking its DNA.
The builder’s new Gozzo 45 is a serious weekend cruiser with a three-stateroom layout, twin 600 hp Cummins inboards and a cockpit that features a U-shaped lounge, an eight-person dinette and sunbeds. The 45, which can reach 30 knots, has wood trim throughout, harking back to the days when the boats were made solely of timber. Yet the interior is unapologetically modern, with a neutral palette that incorporates mustard-and-turquoise trim in the staterooms.
For an even more contemporary take on the style, the yard’s new Gozzo 35 Speedster is designed for the outboard-obsessed US market. Its trio of 300 hp Mercury Verados will push the boat past 40 knots—a far cry from its wind-powered predecessors lazing through the waters along the rocky Ligurian coast.
Fratelli Aprea, now in its sixth generation of boatbuilding, shows that the category is open to multiple interpretations. The family running this Sorrento-based yard is distantly related to Apreamare’s founders, but the differences between their gozzo models are striking. The Fratelli Aprea line features modern fiberglass hulls, but the substantial mahogany detailing is a direct link to its wood-boat heritage. The yard has a mill where large, hand-selected boards are cut to size before carpenters book-match the pieces, perfectly mirroring the opposing grains.
“You’re talking about an old-world build philosophy where carpenters still do detail work with hand planes and work on 150-year-old benches,” says Michael Sinacola, president of Fratelli Aprea USA. “If we change that, the boats would lose their artisanal quality.”
Sinacola spends months at the yard each year to ensure that imported boats are built to US specs, including oversized navigation screens for the helm, air-conditioning and extra speakers for the cockpit. But the craftsmanship on the two-stateroom 36 Hardtop is a clear differentiator, from the teak decks and mahogany brightwork on the exterior to the cabin’s custom mahogany walls, cherry accents and teak-and-holly pinstripe flooring. “We wanted the same level of finish as a private-jet interior,” Sinacola says.
Cantiere Mimì doesn’t have the lineage of the Aprea clans, but this second-generation yard has serious gozzo chops. The Naples-based builder made its first 15-foot launch in 1975 but has advanced to a new 44-foot Libeccio 13.5 Cabin, which features a vacuum-infused composite layup for lighter weight and greater strength. In profile, the boat has a 1960s-cruiser look, but the interior is modern and minimalist, with striped wooden doors and burnt-sienna trim, while multitiered, semicircular platforms at the rear punctuate the gozzo motif. “The area I love most is the stern,” says Domenico Senese, who runs the atelier his father started. “It’s an area of great comfort and transformability—an unusual feature for a boat this size.”
And that’s the beauty of the gozzo: Even after almost 175 years, its curvilinear shape remains both edgy and surprising.