Manlio Benzi studied at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Parma. In 1991 he also graduated with first class honours at the University of Arts in Parma and studied at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, serving as assistant to Carlo Felice Cillario.
In 1990 he founded the Erlebnis Chamber Orchestra, specialising in contemporary music, and embarked on a career that brought invitations from orchestras in Italy and abroad. In 1995 he made his début at the Estonian National Opera in Tallinn with Madama Butterfly and during the 1996/97 season was Permanent Guest Conductor at the Serbian National Theatre of Novi Sad. From 1997 to 1999 he was Associate Conductor of the Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra in Milan, and further conducting engagements followed. He has been Artistic Director of the Notti Malatestiane Festival in Rimini since 2000 and in 2005 he made his début at La Scala, Milan, in a concert with singers of the Accademia della Scala. In 2007 he conducted Zingarelli's Andromeda at the Teatro Litta in Milan and Bellini's I Puritani in the first performance of that work at the Estonian National Opera.
Manlio Benzi has served as professor of orchestral conducting at the Rossini Academy of Music in Pesaro since December 1999, is a composer of chamber and theatre music, and author of various musicological articles and many reviews for Ricordi in Milan and for the Istituto di Studi Verdiani in Parma.