"Vincenzo Cerami is the one person who has taught me how to strike people's feelings, how to make people emotional," Benigni said.
"Knowing Vincenzo was the most incredible gift: the time spent with him throughout my life has been incredible," he continued.
Cerami became interested in the arts when he studied under director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Life is Beautiful (1997) - a tragi-comedy set in the Holocaust - won three Oscars for best actor, best musical score and best foreign language film.
Cerami also co-authored with Benigni the screenplay for "Johnny Stecchino" (1991).
"We lose one of the pillars of Italian culture" said Culture Minister Massimo Bray.