De Sica's film is a faithful, yet fully cinematic transfer to the screen of Giorgio Bassani's semi-autobio-graphical novel of the same title.
The Finzi-Continis, a wealthy, aristocratic Jewish family, lead a secluded life on their splendid estate in the northern Italian town of Ferrara. It is 1938, and they vainly hone that the vulgarities of fascism will not touch their ivory existence.
The head of a bourgeois Jewish family co-operates with the Fascists, hoping that the racial laws will not be applied to "good" Jews. His son. Giorgio, falls in love with Micol, Finzi-Contini's daughter, and the story of the two families, and by extension the fate of all Jews under the Nazis, is told in terms of the ebb and flow of the relationship of the two young people.
The story ends in 1943, with the rounding up of Jewish families in Ferrara, for deportation to German death camps.