Allied forces invade Italy and encounter Italians as they push the Germans north. Six separate stories depict various interactions in the war.
On July 10, 1943 the Americans and British invade Italy. Italians tell the American soldiers that the Germans left mines. Carmela (Carmela Sazio) guides them but is left with a soldier who does not speak Italian. He is shot by the Fascists, who find her. She says she will get water for them but picks up a rifle. The Americans find their soldier and her dead but do not understand how they died.
The Allies took Naples by October. An Italian boy (Alfonsino Pasca) befriends an American MP (Dots Johnson) and tells him not to go to sleep lest he steal his shoes. Later the MP finds the boy and discovers his parents are dead.
The Germans retreat from Rome before the Allies enter. Six months later Francesca (Maria Michi) fights another woman and takes Fred (Gar Moore) home with her. He recalls meeting Francesca when he first arrived; but he does not realize that this prostitute is her.
Germans retreat north to Florence. The American nurse Harriet (Harriet White) is ordered to go to Rome for a rest, but she goes looking for the partisan leader Lugo, a painter she knew. Massimo (Renzo Avanzo) helps her search despite the German occupation. He runs into danger, is captured, and is shot. She learns that Lugo is dead.
Allies battle for villages, and three army chaplains go to a monastery. The monks are concerned when they learn that one is Jewish and another Protestant.
In the Po Valley special forces operate behind the lines. A few men prepare for a plane that makes a drop, but Germans spot the signal fires. They battle German gunboats and are captured. The Germans consider them partisans.
Director Roberto Rossellini made a realistic film using
amateur actors and location shooting mixed with documentary narration
of the historical context, thus depicting the last stage of a
destructive war in Italy.