We are in Campania, at the end of the 1900's.
Francesca (Sofia Loren), daughter and grandaughter of bakers and herself proprietress of a pastry shop, marries prince Giordano Montorsi (Giancarlo Giannini) for love.
At a certain point Francesca, fearing for the life of NanÓ, one of her nine children, makes a vow: if her baby lives, she will adopt an orphan.
And so Nunziatina, a lovely little 8-year old girl, enters their lives. Incredibly, Nunziatina is the child that most resembles Francesca, especially in her helpless dedication to work. She's the only one to stand by Francesca in the pastry shop, and she's the only one to whom Francesca reveals all her professional secrets.
The years pass. Nunziata (Claudia Gerini) is an adolescent when Federico (Raoul Bova), firstborn son of the house of Montorsi, returns from his studies in London. They fall in love. But how can they overcome the obstacle of being part of the same family, if only by adoption?
Meanwhile, the marriage of Francesca and Giordano is in crisis, and because of
his ineffectual business sense, the family is in grave danger of economic ruin.
Francesca decides that the only possible solution is for Federico to marry the daughter of a rich shipowner. Nunziata doesn't know what to do to prevent it, and stalling for time, brings on her own ruin, but...
From the novel by Maria Orsini Natale