Silvio (Alberto Sordi) is an Italian partisan. He and his companions belong to the Italian resistance movement and are fighting against the fascists and the Nazis. They are at Lake Como. He is helped by Elena (Lea Massari). He spends three months hiding in Elena's grandfather's mill. They fall in love. Silvio is an idealist, probably communist, journalist writer. He goes back to war.
The film spans the story of Italy from 1944 to 1960, from the times of poverty in World War II to the birth of the Italian Republic, the elections and Silvio's ideals of the Italian Communist Party, his stay in jail, his disappointments, his crises with Elena, his attempts to get his works published and to sell his film scripts in Cinecittà to Alessandro Blasetti, Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman (they appear as themselves).
Alberto Sordi: Silvio Magnozzi
Lea Massari: Elena Pavinato
Franco Fabrizi: Franco Simonini
Lina Volonghi: Amalia Pavinato
Claudio Gora: Commendator Bracci
Antonio Centa: Carlo
Loredana Nusciak: Giovanna
Daniele Vargas: Marquis Capperoni
Franco Scandurra: President of the examination board
Mino Doro: Ragana
Some scenes are famous in the history of Italian cinema: the dinner at Princess' palace with the referendum of the Italian Republic; when Silvio asks a shepherd guard, "Dimmi, pastore, tu sei felice?". (Tell me, are you happy?); when a drunken Silvio spits at all the cars that drive by on the road after his wife had escaped from a night club in a very long piano sequenza shoot.