She was born in Salerno and lived in Cava de' Tirreni, her family's town of origin. She made her first public appearance when she was five years old, in a show at the Verdi theater in Salerno. She began her professional career in 1976 when Gianni Bongiovanni choose her for the RAI TV film Una donna. Elio Petri then gave her a part in Mani sporche and Mario Monicelli choose her to star in Il malato immaginario together with the famous Italian actor Alberto Sordi.
Her meeting with Massimo Troisi, who cast her in Scusate il ritardo in 1982, brought her to the attention of the new generation of Italian directors. With Francesco Nuti she shot the celebrated Io, Chiara e lo Scuro and Casablanca Casablanca.