Born in 1947. After graduating from the University of Rome, he received his Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and served as Professor of Economics at the University of Florence from 1981 to 1991.

From 1984 to 1990 he was an Executive Director of the World Bank. Later he was Director General of the Italian Treasury (1991-2001), Chairman of the European Economic and Financial Committee (2000-2001), and Chairman of the OECD's Working Party No 3 (1999-2001). He was appointed Chairman of the Italian Committee for Privatisations in 1993.

During his time at the Treasury, he chaired the committee that revised Italian corporate and financial legislation and drafted the law that governs Italian financial markets. From 2002 to 2005 he was Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs International.

He was Governor of the Bank of Italy from 29 December 2005 to 31 October 2011. In April 2006 he was elected Chairman of the Financial Stability Forum, which became the Financial Stability Board in spring 2009. From February 2012 he is Governor Emeritus of the Bank of Italy.

He was President of the European Central Bank from 1 November 2011 to 31 October 2019. In this capacity, he chaired the Governing Council and the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, as well as the European Systemic Risk Board, and he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank for International Settlements.

He was President of the Council of Ministers of Italy from 13 February 2021 to 25 October 2022. On 13 September 2023 the President of the European Commission entrusted him with preparing a report on the future of European competitiveness.

He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since 2009. He was previously an Honorary Trustee of the Brookings Institution and an Institute of Politics Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.