Alexandre Schmid, a well-known architect, has begun to doubt about the value of the work he has done up until now.
He decides to make a journey to Switzerland and Italy in order to write a long put-off essay about the Roman baroque architect Francesco Borromini, whose life and work obsess him, and Aliénor, his wife, decides to go with him.
In Stresa, on the Lago Maggiore, they meet two adolescents, a brother and sister named Goffredo and Lavinia. Aliénor decides to stay in Stresa for a while. Alexandre wants to continue on to Rome, and since Goffredo plans on studying architecture, Aliénor tells her husband to take the boy with him.