American wire service correspondent SHELBY STONE is posted to mid-20th century Rome, the Dolce Vita era. Intrigue and scandal surge between Cinecittá and the Vatican, the Deep South of Calabria and the glittering Via Veneto. He is taken in hand by an oversized and outrageous couple who are a goldmine of insights into the pre-war Italy of Benito Mussolini - Il Duce.'the Duck'.
He helps a Mother Superior promote her convent as a fashion house - Holy Shirt. Watches a rowdy American singer convert an entire piazza into a restaurant. Meets the British script doctor Italian directors rely on to make their films screenworthy. Gets to know a cosmetics queen with a secret ingredient, and her glamorous gang of multi-married Hungarian jewellery smugglers.
He falls for an actress married to a prince but yearns for the girl from back home whose career threatens to outshine his.