Boiardo was born at, or near, Scandiano (today's province of Reggio Emilia); the son of Giovanni di Feltrino and Lucia Strozzi, he was of noble lineage, ranking as Count of Scandiano, with seignorial power over Arceto, Casalgrande, Gesso, and Torricella. Boiardo was an ideal example of a gifted and accomplished courtier, possessing at the same time a manly heart and deep humanistic learning.
Up to the year of his marriage to Taddea Gonzaga, the daughter of the Count of Novellara (1472), he had received many marks of favour from Borso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, having been sent to meet Frederick III (1469), and afterwards visiting Pope Paul II (1471) in the train of Borso. In 1473 he joined the retinue which escorted Eleonora of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand I, to meet her spouse, Ercole, at Ferrara. Five years later Boiardo was invested with the governorship of Reggio, an office which he filled with noted success till his death, except for a brief interval (1481-86) when he was governor of Modena.
In his youth Boiardo had been a successful imitator of Petrarca's love poems. More serious attempts followed with the Istoria Imperiale, some adaptations of Nepos, Apuleius, Herodotus, Xenophon, etc., and his Eclogues. These were followed by a comedy, Il Timone (1487?).
Rime, another work from 1499, was largely forgotten until the English-Italian librarian Antonio Panizzi published it in 1835.
It is uncertain when Boiardo wrote a poem about a selfcomposed, unusual Tarot game, which is of relevance to Tarot research of 15th century and the question of Tarot developed. A deck, which was produced according the poem (probably shortly after Boiardo's death) has partially survived.