Born in Florence, Ms Costa has a degree in modern literature from the University of Rome.
As a professional journalist, she has worked for magazines, newspapers and the realisation of several television programmes for Italian public broadcaster Rai.
Between 1978 and 1985, she was an editor for Il Popolo, a political daily newspaper. Between 1983 and 1994, she was a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (serving three terms).
She then became Chair of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome (1995-2005). Ms Costa has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2009; since 2014 she is Chair of the Committee on Education and Culture.