A true work of design must move people, transmit emotions, bring back memories, surprise, go against the tide… Alberto Alessi.
Let’s play a game, a simple one. What do one of the most historic Italian companies and Dotout have in common? Riccardo Borgialli explained this to us – a prominent athlete in the Italian national trail running team and Marketing Specialist at Alessi. When? During his own two hours of riding, of course.
It’s strange to imagine such an athlete behind a desk. It is strange that such a person could have other interests or dedicate his time to a more traditional work environment. No one would think that a superstar drummer could also be good at administration in any office. Or that a football icon could also be a lawyer. In the same way, we met Riccardo years ago with his trail shoes on, covered in mud and with the smile of someone who was doing what his talent dictated – despite the grimace of fatigue.
Yet, here’s the beauty of it – talent sometimes has several faces. It so happens that one of the world’s most brilliant trail running athletes is also the Marketing Manager at Alessi, one of Italy’s great excellences. And, according to rumours in the corridors, he’s really good at it.
“Design is everything. It only takes a few steps through the corridors of the building to understand this. Too often we take for granted what we get our hands on. We use a coffee maker and think it’s just a coffee maker. We squeeze an orange and think it’s just a juicer. We uncork a bottle and think it’s just a corkscrew. Man, it’s not!” The lesson is clear. Contextualising objects and seeing them in our homes, we often make this mistake. They are products we have been using for years and there is a tendency to let them fade into the mundane. But seeing them all together, on display, side by side, it is clear what Riccardo is trying to explain.
Faces, hands, ideas: this is what lies behind every story of success – and Alessi is no exception. “We have around 300 employees and a great number of us do sport. Never mind my attitude which, by necessity, leads me to be very professional even in trail running. But here at lunchtime there are more people in the changing rooms than holding a fork! We have a tennis court, which doubles as a five-a-side football pitch when necessary. We also organised some really tough tournaments that will never be forgotten – challenges between product and design teams. Then there are those who go running and those who go cycling. Personally, I like to alternate. Obviously I give priority to running, but two wheels are fundamental for me, partly to get away from my training routine, partly because cycling is definitely good for my legs and general fitness.”
The headquarters are located in a beautiful, strategic venue – on the shores of Lake Orta, an Italian gem known worldwide. A stretch of water that not even the greatest designer could have conceived so perfect. For cycling, it’s perfect: mountains, hills, steep slopes and long climbs at your doorstep. Then there are the plains and narrow valleys with such quiet roads. Flowers in spring and foliage in autumn, swimming in the lake in summer and absorbing the beauty of the white winter snow.
“For me and Mauro, our production manager, Mottarone is a must – our favourite two-hour ride. But have you ever done Mottarone?” It’s one of the toughest climbs in the region and you can climb it from two sides, from Lake Orta or from Lake Maggiore. “For our personal lunch break ride, we always climb from the side closest to us, Lake Orta. The first part is tough, we call it a warm-up: it’s about 6 kilometres to Armeno. From here the real Mottarone climb begins: the first 3 kilometres are hellish with peaks of over 18%. You are mostly in the middle of the woods and the view does not help you feel less fatigued. At a certain point you pass beyond the forest and that’s when it becomes a spectacle: the gradients decrease to around 7% and an incredible view opens up. Up there, as if it were Mont Ventoux, the antenna as a reference point… which seems to never get closer!
These are the areas where Riccardo does most of his cycling and running. It is here, amidst mule tracks, forest roads and wild animals of all kinds, that he manages to reconcile passion and work, two aspects that in this particular case alternate and change places with each other.
“Look at this spectacle. From up here you can see seven lakes: Maggiore, Orta, Mergozzo, Varese, Comabbio, Monate and Biandronno. If you raise your head towards the horizon you can see Monte Rosa which, on a clear day, you can almost touch. Is this or is this not paradise?”
In the winter lunch break or after work when the days get longer, it doesn’t matter: two hours are always two hours. Riccardo’s two hours, like Mauro’s two hours. Exactly like your own two hours.