Salvatore Quasimodo was born in Sicily. He studied Greek and Latin from the age of twenty and became a professor of literature in Milan. He translated Shakespeare and Greek lyric poetry. Between 1930 and 1938 he was the leader of the Hermetic school of ‘poesia pura’.
In 1908 his family moved to Messina, as his father had been sent there to help the population struck by a devastating earthquake. The impressions of the effects of natural forces would have a great impact on the young Quasimodo. In 1919 he graduated from the local Technical College. In Messina he also made friends with Giorgio La Pira, future mayor of Florence.
In 1917 Quasimodo founded the short-lived Nuovo giornale letterario ("New Literary Journal"), in which he published his first poems. In 1919 he moved to Rome to finish his engineering studies, but poor economic conditions forced him to find a work as a technical draughtsman. In the meantime he collaborated with several reviews and studied Greek and Latin.
In 1929, invited by Elio Vittorini, who had married Quasimodo's sister, he moved to Florence. Here he met poets such as Alessandro Bonsanti and Eugenio Montale. In 1930 he took a job with Italy's Civil Engineering Corps in Reggio Calabria. Here he met the Misefari brothers, who encouraged him to continue writing. Developing his nearness to the hermetic movement, Quasimodo published his first collection, Acque e terre ("Waters and Earths") in that year.