Enrico Mattei was born on 29 April 1906 in Acqualagna, Pesaro, to Angela Galvani and Antonio Mattei. In 1919, his father was promoted from sergeant to marshal in the Carabinieri, the Italian police. This , which the family to Matelica, Macerata. After elementary school, Enrico attended a technical middle school. But his family’s lack of money and his father’s strict discipline soon led him to seek financial independence. After a brief spell painting metal bed frames, he was taken on as an apprentice at the Fiore tannery in 1923.
Mattei rose rapidly within the company: He began as a labourer, then became chemical laboratory assistant and finally, aged just just 20, was promoted to laboratory head. His higher salary enabled him to open a fabric shop for his mother in 1926. Soon, after, the tannery began to decline amid a general economic crisis and it closed in 1929. Mattei moved to Milan where he set up a small laboratory with his sister and brother, producing emulsifying oils for the tanning and textile industries. In 1934, he founded Industria Chimica Lombarda, with a factory in Via Giuseppe Tartini, in the industrial suburbs of Milan.
He married Vienna-born Greta Paulas in 1936, completed an accountancy qualification and enrolled at the Università Cattolica in Milan.