Alfio Santi has been constructing and maintaining swimming pools for more than thirty years, satisfying various clients in the process, even the most demanding ones. Experience and trustworthiness have led him to work around the world.
Worn are the hands of those who have toiled for a lifetime with a vision and a thirst to learn from others who are better than him. Alfio Santi, 64, is an entrepreneur from Gualdo Catteneo. His business lies in installing and maintaining both private swimming pools and those in entertainment complexes (including waterparks and public gardens). He joined the industry in the late 1970s. Since then, he has worked with all the passion of a craftsman who discovers the most beautiful aspects of his work day in, day out.
Why should a client come to Santi Alfio Piscine?
Because we offer a 360 degree service, mindful of every aspect and accompanying the client through all the phases. Many choose to save money by relying on people who do other types of work, probably at a cheap price, but they subsequently lose money later on when they notice problems with their pools. Currently, we are following around 140 swimming pools. This means that we have built a reputation as serious and reliable professionals.
A reputation that has led you to construct swimming pools throughout Italy and even around the world…
Yes, it’s true we’ve been to Russia, Albania, Corsica and France. In Moscow, for instance, we finished a system for an important client who, obviously, requested to remain anonymous. In such cases, word of mouth is critical. When you start working with clients of a certain level then your name starts to do the rounds. In all cases, we want to be able to follow those who entrusted themselves to us consistently. We are very strict about this.
Reputation is made known through word of mouth and vice versa but history and experience lie at the base of it all. How did you start constructing swimming pools?
Aged 30 I was looking for a new job. I had already been employed by a company in Milan that made industrial installations but I was looking for something that I was passionate about. The first swimming pools were being constructed at that time and there were hardly any people who had one. So I began to work with a firm in Gualdo Cattaneo. It was a field I knew little about but I quickly realised that there was plenty of opportunity for growth since the market was moving in that direction. The technical experience that I had acquired in my previous jobs has always been tremendously helpful.
So much so that you chose to become an entrepreneur and to start your own business.
Exactly. First with two colleagues of mine and then, from 1985 onwards alone. My wife has always helped me and slowly, slowly we managed to build a firm that today, after more than 30 years, continues to grow.
When did you realise that this was a sector capable of growth?
Towards the end of the 1980s, together with the birth of the first farmhouse tourism ventures that started to attract people from all over the world. We began to work hard. All the new tourism businesses were demanding swimming pools and we were more than happy to supply them! In the beginning, we mostly worked in Tuscany especially in the Chianti region. Then we also took on work in Umbria and gradually, across all of Italy and even abroad.
What do clients request? What do they ask for when they come to you?
Very often, they are advised and have guidance. Many think about immediately building a very large swimming pool, when maybe we recommend that a smaller pool would be better. Increasingly frequently, clients arrive after having ‘researched’ the form, the materials and everything else. Thanks to the internet, clients are able to inform themselves alone so we have to keep up to date and provide the best possible advice.
How important is the aesthetic dimension? Having a swimming pool is a luxury and it must also be a designed nicely.
It is very important and it is the first aspect that clients consider. We offer various colours, materials and shapes. For instance, currently the infinity pool is in vogue. When a customer asks us for a quote, we prepare a 3D model. On a screen, it is possible to envisage how the finished work will look, the space it will take up and they can start fantasizing about when they can finally dive into the water.
How can swimming pool designed be varied to suit clients’ requirements?
It depends on what the swimming pool will be used for. If they simply want a pool to feel fresh and to enjoy it with the family then a small pool that isn’t too deep will suffice. Other clients however might want to swim therefore we’ll build a long and rather narrow pool. On the other hand pools for waterparks are completely different, as was the case with our clients from Sardinia or Emilia-Romagna. In these cases we researched very large and particular structures.
Does the work end once the swimming pool is constructed?
Absolutely not. The client remains a client even after we’ve concluded the work. We follow them in every aspect, not only when there is a problem. We take care of water treatment, covering and uncovering swimming pools and maintaining the water pumps. However, our work goes beyond this: for us it is very important to follow all the bureaucratic aspects of constructing a swimming pool. We take care of the specifics that are required for the Local Sanitary Authority to give the green light to use the pool: we carry out the so-called ‘colour test’ to demonstrate proper water circulation. These may seem like small tasks but we do believe that they make all the difference.
In many years the materials and the techniques employed will change…
Yes, initially pools were almost exclusively constructed in concrete or they were pre-made in steel. For some years then, polystyrene was mostly used, which is lighter and has better thermal properties: the water temperature is much warmer by even up to 4 degrees higher. Today, we work with very advanced technology, which allows you, for instance, to command the swimming pool (for instance, regulating pump power or the lighting) remotely by simply using a smartphone.
Where do you see the business heading?
I am very happy that for a few years now, my son Luca has been working within the business. His contribution is crucial for thanks to him we have introduced many of the technological innovations I mentioned. We are projecting ourselves into the future. So I am optimistic and I think that there is still plenty more satisfaction to be gained.