Climbing has never bothered Maria. She grew up in the hills of southwest Italy “in a tiny town not even on the map between Napoli and Roma,” she says. Only the piazza was level, and everything else was up or down. “To go to church was like a thousand steps,” she recalls. “Step, step, step. My legs are trained.”
Gardening was not part of her young life. “My mother would sew me a beautiful dress to wear to school. She would not allow me to get dirty in the garden. I make up for it now,” Maria says wryly. “I’m always in the mud.”
Eventually, her family came to America. Then about 25 years ago, Maria and husband Bill, an electrical engineer, moved with their two boys to their current home in Florence, Alabama. The house sits high above a slough that feeds into Wilson Lake and the Tennessee River.