Luigi Ugolini descended from a noble family of Tuscany whose recorded lineage dates back to 1585 in Arezzo, Italy. Ugolini was born in Florence, where his Siena-born father and his grandfather both had medical practices. Ugolini was a nobleman who was known to prefer the company of poor farmers in the regions of Maremma, whom he described as truer gentlemen than many of those so-called gentlemen in the city. Accounts depict Ugolini as playful as he was honestly outspoken. He married Lina Vaselli, and the couple had seven children, four sons and three daughters.
Ugolini attended the Military Academy of Modena and graduated from the University of Pisa with a degree in Law, mainly to honor his father's wishes. After 10 years of practicing law, he made a dramatic move to devote his life to his calling of letters. He was introduced by Giovanni Papini in Nuova Antologia the leading Italian literary magazine (New Anthology). Ugolini's novels document and give voice to the nearly invisible Tuscan way of life, now absorbed into near nonexistence by a modernized and globalized Italy. For example, in his story of the fearless Domenico Tirbuzi, a Florentine Robin Hood of the poor masses, Ugolini preserves the dialogue, Tuscan dialect, and archaic words particular to the Maremma vernacular. Ugolini's The Story of My Land immortalizes bread making, cooking and many details of classic country life in a now changing Tuscany.
Ugolini was godfather to his granddaughter, the novelist/poet Vanna Bonta. He named her Vanna after the female character in Dante Alighieri's "La Vita Nuova." Lydia Ugolini, Ugolini's eldest daughter and a popular children's writer, returned to the Ugolini home after becoming widowed in 1964. She was appointed by Ugolini as executrix of his literary and personal estate in 1972, and later named to that position by Ugolini's last will and testament. She worked with her father and cared for him until his death in 1980. In his will, Ugolini left half of his estate to Lydia Ugolini, the maximum allowable to a testator by Italian law, and the remainder was divided among his other living children and descendants.
Ugolini and his wife were married over sixty years at the time of her death in 1975. He died at home in Florence. His body is interred in the Porte Sante (Holy Doors) cemetery at the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Florence. On his death bed, Ugolini told his daughter Lydia that he had always been true to his wife, her mother, and was still in love with her. He added that she was the only woman he had loved and that he would marry her again. His last murmured words were, "Una pagina bianca" (literally "a white page" but meaning "a blank page" or "a new page").
Ugolini wrote fiction and novelized historical biographies for adults and young readers, many of which are required reading in Italian schools. In all, he published over 120 works, including technical manuals, radio dramas, scholastic texts, handbooks, cookbooks, and scientific essays.
In 1916, Luigi Ugolini published Ex Corde, a collection of poems with themes about Nature, eternal war, and humanity. He was living as a second lieutenant after his graduation from the Military Academy of Modena and embarked in a law career for ten years, but this volume first publicly revealed Ugolini a poet. The book of the then-unknown author earned high praise in La Nazione reviews by noted writers of that epoch that included Grazia Deledda and Giovanni Marradi.
Ugolini was featured in many publications. He also contributed as a journalist to leading Italian newspapers, among them La Nazione and Messaggero. Following the review of an early work, New York Times Book Review (June 3, 1934) stated: "an extremely interesting biography of the one notorious brigand of the Maremma, Tiburzi, from the pen of Luigi Ugolini, painter and hunter, whose Il nido di Falasco (1932) first attracted attention to his possibilities as a man of letters. Ugolini will bear watching."
After World War II, Ugolini concentrated on literary work for youths, creating the famous series of "Novelized Biographies" for the Paravia, Società Editrice Internazionale (SEI), and Minerva Italica publishing houses.
Ugolini's passion for the land, adventure, and human sensibilities continues to spark the imaginations of youth. Through keen and warm humanization of great artists and leaders, original novels dedicated to "the young of all ages", and a breadth of genres that includes fantasy and science fiction, Ugolini has influenced generations. "Ugolini's degree in jurisprudence ultimately honored his father's wishes in a larger courtroom, on the human stage where, whether history or fiction, he treats and judges his characters with keen, compassionate justice in its barest and most universal sense, one which respects humanity using measures beyond wealth and power, measures that apply to the fundamental heart and honor of any human being."
In 1983, Ugolini's "Tales of Hunting, Fishing, Life" ("Olimpia di Vallecchi") posthumously earned Italy's Prize of Bancerello Sport.
The Austrian Ministry of Education acknowledged Ugolini in the noted publication "Jugendbuch Autoren aus allen Welt," edited by Lucia Binder for Italy. Ugolini's works have been translated into Japanese and most European languages (German, Romanian, Czech, Hungarian, Portuguese, Serb-Croatian, Spanish) and have won numerous literary prizes.
On December 11, 1993, the Commune of Florence affixed a commemorative marble plaque to the Ugolini home in Florence, declaring the house a national monument. The epigraph on the plaque was unveiled during a government dedication ceremony in which some officials wore Renaissance-period clothing styles. In English, the epigraph reads, "Here for many years the Florentine writer and poet Luigi Ugolini gave voice to the beauty and humanity of his land and his people.",
Throughout his life, Ugolini referred to himself as an Etruscan, as did his publishers. In a preface About Luigi Ugolini (1965), his publisher, Paravia, added the comment: “His work adheres to its spirit and its inspiration, to the ancient region that always gave, by particular grace, the most iconic figures of art and science. Because his work has, of the Maremma region, the ancient mysterious spell, like the luminous Florentine hills and the deep silences of Volterra.”
Known as a poet whose writings were a flame to conscience and ethical thinking, Ugolini is remembered as a brave spirit who considered indifference among the most reprehensible of sins. On the April 27, 1940, Ugolini was arrested by the Fascist police for his essays against the regime. When Benito Mussolini's political movement began to establish alliances with Germany, Ugolini protested and predicted the misfortune of entering World War II in alliance with Adolf Hitler. He was tried and condemned by the Special Court to two years of confinement as a political prisoner.
Legends of Ugolini are still told in smaller towns of the Tuscan countryside. He is said to have packed his seven children into a car after a dishonest business manager lost their country villa, and to have lit a cigarette with a piece of money to show disdain for greed. Another legend tells of his arrest by the Fascist police. According to this legend, his daughter Maria Luisa went to the garden to announce to her father they had visitors, two men who claimed to be from Cinecittà. When Ugolini asked his daughter for her impression of them, she gave him the hand signal for "so-so." Ugolini quietly instructed her to hide his typewriter. The two men in fact were Fascist police in disguise, and they arrested him. After interrogation and threats against his family, Ugolini admitted being the anonymous author of the anti-Fascist essays. Ugolini asked for copies of the essays in question, a pen, and a cigarette, and then he signed his name to each essay. He was spared execution because Mussolini admired his novel La Zolla and saw that the public opinion of Ugolini was too favorable.Premio Nazionale Città di Biella, 1935, for La Zolla
Premio dell'Accademia d'Italia (Accademia dei Lincei), 1936, for The Skua of White Island (Societa Editrice Internazionale)
Premio Castello, 1962, for The Skua of White Island (Societa Editrice Internazionale)
Premio Bancerello Sport, 1983, for Tales of Hunting, Fishing, Life (Olimpia)