Born in Alexandria of Italian emigrants in a city suburb on the edge of the desert. Attended a school where the lessons were given in French. After a rebellious youth left Egypt for Paris in 1912, visiting Italy for the first time on the way. Enrolled at the Sorbornne as a law student, but pursued his literary and philosophical interests and made many friends among the Parisian avant-garde, and later associated with the Italian Futurists. Fought in the Italian infantry during the First World War and after returning to Paris at the end of the war, where he married, took up residence in Rome in 1921. Culturally attracted by Mussolini and the ideology of Fascism, from both of which he took refuge in the years 1931-35 by lecturing all over Europe on Italian literature. Became Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1936. In 1939 his son died of misdiagnosed appendicitis. Returned to a professorship in Rome in 1942, by which time his importance as a poet was widely recognized. Subsequently devoted much of his energy to translation. Travelled very extensively in his old age, especially after the death of his wife in 1958. Died in Milan after contracting bronchitis on a winter visit to New York.
In the course of his 'Second Discourse on Leopardi', Ungaretti provides the reader of his own poetry with what is effectively a discourse on how best to approach it:
The art of words imposes a radical metamorphosis. If I say: tree -- everyone thinks of a tree; but nothing is less like a tree than the