Ornella Muti was born in Rome as Francesca Romana Rivelli, to a Neapolitan journalist father and Ilse Renate Krause, a Baltic German sculptor from Estonia. Her maternal grandparents emigrated from Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg, Russia) to Estonia. She has an older sister, Claudia (born 1950).
Muti modeled as a teenager and made her film debut in 1970 in La moglie più bella (aka The Most Beautiful Wife). She has primarily worked in Italian films but she made her English-speaking film debut as Princess Aura in Flash Gordon in 1980. American movies she appeared in include Love and Money (1982), Casanova (1987), Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1989), A Season of Giants (1990), Oscar (1991), Once Upon a Crime (1992), Somewhere in the City (1998) and To Rome with Love (2012).
She is mostly known to the French for appearing in a television commercial of Giovanni Panzani pasta. She was voted “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World” in 1994 by a worldwide poll of readers of the magazine Class.
In 2008, Muti introduced her own line of jewelry. She opened new shops in Paris, Milan, Rome, Riga, Moscow and Almaty.[when?] She reportedly insured her breasts for $350,000.
Muti has been married twice, first to Alessio Orano (a fellow actor in The Most Beautiful Wife), from 1975 to 1981. She was married, secondly, to Federico Fachinetti, from 1988 to 1996. Muti has three children: Naike Rivelli (born 1974), a fashion model, singer, and actress (whose father was believed to be Spanish film producer José Luis Bermúdez de Castro Acaso); a son, Andrea, and a second daughter, Carolina, both from her marriage to Fachinetti.