Palmiro Togliatti was born in Genoa, Italy on 26 March 1893 to a middle-class family of observant Catholics, and he joined the Italian Socialist Party while he was studying law at the University of Turin in 1914. During World War I, Togliatti served as a Royal Italian Army volunteer officer, and he was injured in battle. He became a follower of Antonio Gramsci after the war's end, and he assisted in the founding of the Communist Party of Italy in 1921. Togliatti took over the party when Gramsci was arrested by the fascist government in 1926; he had been in Moscow with the Comintern when the wave of arrests occurred.
Togliatti became a member of the secretariat of Comintern, and he became a citizen of the Soviet Union while he was in exile. In 1944, after the downfall of the National Fascist Party during World War II, he returned to Italy to lead the Communist Party during the Italian Civil War. He agreed to the "Palermo Turn" with the monarchy and Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio, in which his party agreed to cooperate with the monarchy and abandon its socialist armed struggle. From 1945 to 1946, he served as Minister of Justice of Italy, and he served in the Chamber of Deputies from 1948 until his death. On 14 July 1948, he survived a shooting attempt by an anti-communist student.
Under Togliatti, the PCI became the second-largest party in Italy and the largest non-governing communist party in Europe, and it ran many municipalities and held many local and regional offices. He died while vacationing in Yalta, Russian SFSR in 1964 to congratulate the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev on taking power, and the Soviets named the city of Tolyatti after him.