The Borrani family moved from Pisa to Florence, where Odoardo enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1853. It was with his new friends Telemaco Signorini and Vincenzo Cabianca that he took up painting from life and came into contact with the Macchiaioli group gravitating around the Caffè Michelangelo. He served as a volunteer in the second war of independence in 1859 and in 1862, together with Giuseppe Abbati, Silvestro Lega, Raffaello Sernesi and Signorini, went to work in the countryside outside Florence near Piagentina, the town from which this group of artists takes its name. It was also in 1862 that he first spent the summer at Castiglioncello, as the guest of the critic Diego Martelli. The gallery set up with Lega in 1875 to promote younger artists soon went out of business. He worked in later years as a teacher, ceramic decorator and graphic artist for L’Illustrazione Italiana.