The story begins in New York, but since the central character, Ennio, an Italian-American pastry chef, decides he should sign up, the action soon moves to the invasion of Italy. He becomes a cook with a company moving north from Naples, village by village, toward Rome. Meanwhile Lucia is working the family farm in the Liri Valley below the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Ennio and his friends are stopped short by the Germans at their Gustav Line, of which the Abbey forms a crucial part. Lucia’s farm is bombed, and she and Ennio are soon involved personally in one of the worst battles of WWII.