A group of Italian soldiers hears that an armistice has been declared during WW II, and all of the men except Sordi and Reggiani desert. Sordi and Reggiani begin their journey back to the main Italian forces. Along the way partisan fighters try to convince the two to join them, and more
soldiers join the duo. One soldier, Balsam, is arrested by the Italian Fascists because his family hid an American paratrooper. The Germans make Sordi and Reggiani work on a road gang. When they're attacked by the partisans, Sordi escapes and Reggiani is killed during the fighting. Sordi realizes
that he can't escape the war and joins the partisans.