Federico Santi was born in Turin. Studied composition under Karlheinz Stockhausen, orchestral conducting under Fulvio Vernizzi, Yuri Ahronovitch, Isaac Karabtchevsky and Vladimir Ponkin, piano under Jörg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda, chamber music under Claudio Voghera, Franco Gulli and Enrica Cavallo-Gulli and harpsichord under Emilia Fadini and Walter Kolneder.
In 2008 he received the 1st prize and Special Prize of the Opéra de Nice at the International Opera Conducting Competition in Orvieto. Has appeared at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (Manon Lescaut), the Bunka Kaikan concert hall in Tokyo (La traviata), the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City (Il trovatore), the Turin Cathedral (Rossini's Petite Messe solennelle and Mozart and Fauré's Requiems), the Opéra Royal de Wallonie (world premiere of the opera Le Sabotage amoureux by Daniel Schell and La Bohème), the Romanian National Opera (Le nozze di Figaro and Tosca), the Opéra de Rouen (Viva la mamma and Die Entführung aus dem Serail) and the Forest National concert hall in Brussels (Nabucco).
Has collaborated with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Dietfried Bernet, Carlo Rizzi, Alberto Zedda, Bruno Campanella and Paolo Arrivabeni. From 1998–2004 he was a pianist with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, from 1999-2001 he was a pianist at the Teatro Civico in Sassari, from 1999–2005 he was a coach at the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale in Spoleto, from 2001–2002 he was Musical Stage Director of theatres in Modena and Ferrara, and from 2015–2016 he was a coach at the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers.
Currently appears as a guest conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre and teaches orchestration, score reading and the history of instruments at the Conservatorium Maastricht.