Born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome, she acted in amateur productions as a teenager, then trained as an actor at Rome's National Academy of Dramatic Arts (graduating in 1953) and at Pittman's College, where she played a teen in a charity performance of Dario Niccodemi's La nemica. She toured Germany with an Italian acting troupe and her first stage appearance in Rome was for a production of Niccolò Machiavelli's La Mandragola.