Born in Genoa, the youngest son of a businessman. Deeply impressed by the landscape of the Ligurian coast, where his formative years were spent. Called up for military service in 1917, after which he abandoned his first ambition to be an opera singer and began to write the poems of Ossi di Seppia which were to make him famous. Moved to Florence in 1927, where he worked for a publisher and was appointed director of a library. Considered his twenty years in Florence the most important so far as his cultural development was concerned, though his non-alignment with the Fascist authorities caused him to lose his job and to be viewed with suspicion. Supported himself by translation during the war years and shielded the poet Saba from Fascist persecution. Turned to journalism after the war, moving in 1948 to Milan, where he was given a regular column in the Corriere della Sera. Began to paint in watercolour in 1946 during his wife's illness in a sanatorium. Travelled widely throughout Europe and the Middle East in the immediate post-war period; a regular first-nighter at La Scala for many years. Internationally known before the Second World War, but especially highly regarded at home and abroad in the years since the war. Deeply distressed by the death of his wife in 1963, and thereafter increasingly solitary. Made a senator for life in 1968. A trenchant critic of modern culture in his journalism and in his prose writings; an accomplished translator, especially of English poetry.
In an essay on T. S. Eliot published in 1947 Montale spoke of