Santi studied at the " Liceo Musicale of Padua " composition and singing. In 1951 he made his debut as a conductor in Padua with Giuseppe Verdi's " Rigoletto " at the Teatro Verdi. 1958 to 1969 he was music director of the Zurich Opera House.
Nello Santi conducts mostly without score and knows the text of the work by heart. There are performances are known in which Santi conducted simultaneously and sang the role for an indisposed tenor. He has a photographic memory and scrolls during the show sometimes with the left hand the first violinist to the side, because he knows that he has to play a difficult place and has difficulty turn the page.
- 2013: Culture Prize of the City of Zurich