He earned his medical degree in 1888 from the University of Turin, and from 1900 until 1928 was director of the hospital in Varese.
He is credited with developing an easy-to-use version of the sphygmomanometer. His original sphygmomanometer consisted of every-day objects that included an inkwell, some copper pipe, bicycle inner tubing and a quantity of mercury. NeurosurgeonHarvey Cushing (1869-1939) improved his device, and played a major role in bringing Riva-Rocci's mercury sphygmomanometer to the attention of physicians world-wide. Riva-Rocci's initials RR are used to indicate blood pressure measured with his technique.