Chiara Matraini was born in Lucca into an affluent bourgeois Italian family that derived its wealth from textile weaving. She pursued her passions for writing and music, a career unusual for women of her time and class, and found a model in Vittoria Colonna. Though without formal training, Chiara excelled in a number of literary genres, including poetry, letters, religious meditation, discourse, and dialogue. Her father died when she was a baby, and a paternal uncle became her guardian. In 1530, when she was 15, he arranged her marriage to Vincenzo Cantarini, an aristocrat with whom she had a son. She continued to use her maiden name. In 1542, her husband died and a few years later she was living openly with poet Bartolomeo Graziani, a married man. The two entertained intellectuals and university students in their home at gatherings famed for their freedom of speech. Graziani was later murdered, perhaps out of revenge by members of his wife’s family. In 1555, Chiara had her first publication, Rime e prose (Rhymes and Prose), which celebrated her love for Graziani and defended women's writing. In 1556 she published a translation from Latin of the ancient Greek Isocrates’s Oration to Demonicus. That same year, she published a collection of 99 of her poems as Rime di diversi signori napolitani, e d'altri. After spending a few years in Genoa, she returned to Lucca permanently in 1576 and published four religious books including Meditazioni spirituali (Spiritual Medications, 1581) and a highly popular 1580 work in praise of the Virgin Mary. She also built a chapel and an altar in the Church of Santa Maria Forisportam, and commissioned a fresco portrait of herself as the Cumaean Sibyl. In 1595, she published a newly expanded collection of her letters and poems, Lettere e rime. Some of these works have been anthologized for several centuries.