Rinaldi is the son of Pierre-François Rinaldi and Antoinette Pietri; after growing up in Corsica he became a journalist. He initially worked as a reporter and court correspondent for the newspapers Nice-Matin and Paris-Jour and soon acquired a reputation as a writer and a sharp-penned literary critic. As a critic, he worked for L'Express, Le Point and Le Nouvel Observateur before becoming literary editor of Le Figaro, which he remained until his retirement.
Rinaldi is Corsican, and his books often contain detailed observations of Corsica and of the town of Bastia where he grew up.
He has received the Prix Pierre de Monaco for his body of work.