He trained with Pietro Paolini in Lucca and then moved to Rome to work under Pietro da Cortona. He often worked alongside Filippo Gherardi. With Coli, Gherardi was initially a trainee of Pietro Paolini in Lucca. In Venice, Coli and Gherardi also completed frescoes (1670–72) of the dome of the church of San Nicolò da Tolentino with a fresco of the Glory of San Nicolò, and in the massive decoration of the church of San Pantalon. In Venice, Coli and Gherardi frescoed the Library of San Giorgio Maggiore.
- D. Ton, Giovanni Coli. Filippo Gherardi, in "Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell'Arte", 31, 2007 (2009), pp. 1–174.