Italo Bombolini (Anthony Quinn) is the mayor of the hillside village of Santa Vittorio. The wine-loving town leader erases a pro-Mussolini slogan when he hears of the fascist being killed and hanged from a meathook. His wife Rosa (Anna Magnani) throws him out of their wine shop when he and his friends celebrate and he gives away too much wine.
When he hears the retreating Nazi Army will soon be in town, hundreds of villagers turn out to hide the wine in an old Roman cave. The people work day and night, hiding 1 million bottles just before the Nazis enter the town. SS officers threaten death to anyone who withholds the wine.
Italo presents a single bottle to the irate general (Hardy Kruger), as the hapless Germans are powerless to force the villagers to produce the coveted bottles. Not even a pistol to the head of their beloved mayor is effective as the town stands by, watching in complete silence.