Enrico Fermi was born on September 29, 1901, in Rome, Lazio, Italy. His father, Alberto Fermi, was an administrative employee of the Italian railroads; his mother, Ida de Gattis, was a schoolteacher. Ida was a remarkable person who was the daughter of an army officer. She trained as a school teacher and taught in elementary schools for most of her life. Highly intelligent, she was the major influence on her children after her marriage to Alberto in 1898. Ida was 27 years old when she married but her husband Alberto was 41. He worked for railway companies in various parts of Italy but had moved to Rome in 1888. He was promoted to inspector in the year he married Ida and by the end of his career he had risen to play a major role in what was by that time the state owned railway company. Enrico was the third of his parents' children having an older sister Maria (born in 1899) and older brother Giulio (born in 1900). In line with the custom of the time, Enrico was brought up by a nurse away from the family until he was about 30 months old. He was then strictly brought up although the family were not religious (something which upset Alberto's family who were all devout Catholics except Alberto).
Fermi enjoyed science and spent much time building electric motors and mechanical toys with Maria and Giulio. In January 1915, when he was 14, tragedy struck the family when Giulio died undergoing a minor operation for a throat abscess. This, of course, had a deep and lasting affect on Fermi who, already somewhat introverted, became even less outgoing. At this time he became friends with Enrico Persico, who was in the same class at school.