After high school, Piovani enrolled at the Sapienza University of Rome, receiving his degree in piano from the Verdi Conservatory in Milan in 1967, and later studied orchestration under the Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis.
Among his more popular works is the score for the Federico Fellini film Intervista, his second of three collaborations with the famous director, the others being Ginger e Fred (Ginger and Fred in English) and La voce della luna (The Voice of the Moon). Years later, he composed a ballet titled Balletto Fellini. In light of his recent work with French directors, notably Danièle Thompson, Philippe Lioret, and Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, the French Minister of Culture gave him the title of Chevalier (Knight) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres on 21 May 2008 at the Cannes Film Festival.
To date, Piovani has over 130 film scores to his cr, including films such as The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974), Flavia the Heretic (1974), Le Orme (1975), A Leap in the Dark (1980) The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982), and "Kaos" (1984). The music for the latter is considered by many as one of the best film scores ever done. However, he is reported to believe that "Too many film scores make a composer a hack, but in the theatre music is above all craftsmanship".
Accordingly, he continues to work in musical theatre, and also composes concert and chamber music.
In 2005 he was a member of the jury at the 27th Moscow International Film Festival.
Children: Duccio, Rocco.