Piperno was born in Catanzaro.
He graduated in physics at the University of Pisa and was member of the FGCI (Italy's communist youth organization). After his expulsion, in 1969 he was suspected of having sabotaged a Boston Chemical plant, which produced defoliant used in the Vietnam war, but he was immediately released. In Rome he was an activist in the 1968 movement and in the summer 1969 he took part in the demonstration against Fiat in Turin.
In the late 1969, with Oreste Scalzone and Toni Negri, he was one of the founders of the far-left organisation Potere Operaio, and later he was a member of Autonomia Operaia. He also led the wing of Potere Operaio called Lavoro Illegale ("Illegal Work")
With Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone and others, he was charged for the publication of subversive magazines in 1979 but he escaped the capture. In 1980 he was absolved, but one year later he was condemned to 10 years of imprisonment in another trial for insurrectional activity and participation to the kidnapping of Aldo Moro. In particular, he was accused of having acted as a negotiator (through one of the kidnappers, Valerio Morucci) between the Italian Socialist Party and the terrorists who were allegedly detaining Moro. Documents left by the journalist Mino Pecorelli after his murder also hinted at an involvement of Piperno in the kidnapping. Piperno then lived in exile for several years, first in France and then in Canada, where he also obtained a position at the University of Montreal. Most of the charges were later dropped, and the sentence was reduced to 4 years.
Piperno returned to Italy from Canada in 1990 and became active locally in his hometown, Cosenza, creating the cultural association Ciroma. In January 1996 his car was hit by four handgun bullets. In May 1996 Piperno became a member of the local council of the city of Cosenza.
- Course held by Piperno
- Mazzocchi, Silvana (18 January 2007). "Da Valle Giulia al 7 aprile così tramontò Potere operaio". La Repubblica. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- Mastrogiacomo, Daniele (7 May 1996). "Lui, il '68 e i 'cattivi maestri'". La Repubblica. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- Scottoni, Franco (14 January 1987). "Fiori spiega i rapporti tra le BR e 'Autonomia'". La Repubblica. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- Hansen, Ann (2001). Direct Action: memoirs of an urban guerrilla. Canada: AK Press. p. 25.
- Willan, Philip (2002) . Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy. Constable and Company. p. 185.
- Rimedio, Vincenzo. Il volto dell'essere. Rubbettino. p. 105.
- Macri`, Carlo (28 January 1996). "Cosenza, quattro colpi di pistola contro l' auto di Franco Piperno". Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
- Fertilio, Dario (7 May 1996). "E Piperno diventa assessore". Retrieved 17 January 2011.