He took up sports journalism, writing for the daily papers La Stampa and Il Giornale; together with Gianni Brera at the La Gazzetta dello Sport he brought a new literary quality to Italian writing on sport. His most important work in this line was the 1977 football novel Azzurro tenebra. In Italy he got to know the Argentinian writer and fellow sports enthusiast Osvaldo Soriano.
Arpino also wrote plays, short stories, epigrams and stories for children.
He won the Strega Prize in 1964 with L'ombra delle colline, the Premio Campiello of 1972 with Randagio è l'eroe and the 1980 SuperCampiello with Il fratello italiano. His novels are characterised by a dry and ironic style.
Arpino died in Turin in 1987. His links to his childhood town of Bra have been maintained by the establishment of a multifunctional cultural centre and of a prize for children’s literature.
- Sei stato felice, Giovanni (1952)
- Gli anni del giudizio (1958)
- La suora giovane (1959)
- Un delitto d'onore (1960)
- Una nuvola d'ira (1962)
- L'ombra delle colline (1962)
- Un'anima persa (1966)
- La babbuina (1967)
- Il buio e il miele (1969) translated as Scent of a Woman (2012)
- Randagio è l'eroe (1972)
- Racconti di vent’anni (1974)
- L'assalto al treno ed altre storie (1974)
- Rafé e Micropiede (1974)
- Domingo il favoloso (1975)
- Il primo quarto di luna (1976)
- Azzurro tenebra (1977)
- Il fratello italiano (1980)
- Le mille e una Italia (1980)
- Un gran mare di gente (1981)
- Bocce ferme (1982)
- La sposa segreta (1983)
- Il contadino Genè (1985)
- Passo d'addio (1986)
- La trappola amorosa (postumo, 1988)
- In Renzo e Luciana, an episode from Boccaccio '70 taken from Italo Calvino’s L'avventura di due sposi and directed by Mario Monicelli (1962), Arpino worked on the screenplay alongside Calvino, Susi Cecchi D'Amico and Mario Monicelli.
- His Il buio e il miele was turned into the well-known and multiple prize-winning film Profumo di donna (1974), directed by Dino Risi with Vittorio Gassman as Captain Fausto Consolo and Agostina Belli as Sara. This film in turn was remade in 1992 as Scent of a Woman (1992).
- In 1977 Dino Risi’s film Anima persa, with Vittorio Gassman as Fabio Stolz and Catherine Deneuve as Sofia Stolz, was freely adapted from Arpino’s novel of the same name.
- In a 1991 documentary for the French television series Un livre un jour Arpino appeared as himself.
- Mariano D’Amora, ‘Giovanni Arpino’ in Encyclopedia of Italian literary studies, ed. by Gaetana Marrone and others, 2 vols (New York; London: Routledge, 2007) II, 95–97.
- Parco Letterario: Giovanni Arpino (in Italian)
- "Giovanni Arpino romanziere delle Langhe", di Giorgio Barberi Squarotti (in Italian)