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While in Rome during a multi-city goodwill tour, Princess Anne, the youthful heir to a European crown, impresses the guests of an embassy ball with her charm and poise. Later, as she is preparing for bed, Anne, feeling overwhelmed by her tedious, endless schedule, starts to scream uncontrollably at her efficient secretary, Countess Vereberg. To calm her, Anne's doctor injects her with a sedative, but before the drug takes effect, Anne sneaks out of the palatial embassy and hides in the back of a truck. Anne jumps out when the truck reaches a lively part of town, but is already starting to yawn from the sedative. Soon after, American reporter Joe Bradley spots her prostrate on some stairs and hears her mumbling in English. Joe is unaware of her identity and assumes she is drunk, but reluctantly drags her into a cab. When Joe asks the increasingly groggy Anne for an address, she insists that she lives in the Colosseum. Not knowing what else to do, Joe takes Anne to his tiny apartment. There, while trying to undress herself so that she can don Joe's pajamas, Anne admits that she has never been alone with a man and begins to recite poetry. Frustrated, Joe goes out for coffee after instructing her to sleep on his couch. When he returns, however, he finds her curled up in his bed and rolls her onto the couch. The next day, Joe, who was scheduled to interview the princess that morning, wakes up late and rushes out, leaving behind the still sleeping Anne. At his newspaper office, Joe, unaware that the princess' activities for the day have been cancelled, lies to Hennessy, his editor, that he conducted the interview. When Hennessy shows him a newspaper report about the princess' sudden "illness," Joe stares at the accompanying photograph and realizes that the princess is the woman on his couch. Seeing his opportunity, the perpetually broke Joe gets Hennessy to agree to pay him $5,000 if he produces an exclusive, revealing interview with the princess, complete with photographs. Back at Joe's apartment, Anne finally wakes up and introduces herself as Anya. After drawing Anne a bath, Joe slips out and telephones his photographer friend, Irving Radovich, telling him only that he needs him for an important story. Now bathed and dressed, a grateful Anne borrows 1,000 lire , or $1.50, from Joe and leaves on foot. Joe follows her, watching with amusement as she buys a pair of shoes from a street vendor. Anne then enters a barbershop and insists that the barber, Mario Delani, cut her long hair into a stylish bob. Mario is taken with the transformed Anne and invites her to a barge dance that night. With her last bit of money, Anne buys a gelato and at the Trevi fountain, is joined by Joe, who pretends he has run into her. Anne, in turn, claims she is a runaway schoolgirl and admits that her only desire is to spend the day having fun. Anxious to please, Joe takes her to a nearby cafe, where she meets Irving, who, unaware of Joe's scheme, almost reveals Joe's identity. After Joe fills him in, Irving, using a miniature camera hidden inside a cigarette lighter, snaps pictures of Anne smoking her first cigarette. The three then go sightseeing, and Anne, whom Irving nicknames "Smitty" after she states that her last name is Smith, jumps on a motorscooter Joe has rented and takes a wild ride around the plaza. The ride gets them arrested, but when Joe claims that he and Anne were on their way to get married, the police let them go. Anne and Joe test their truthfulness at the ancient sculpture Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Truth, and then visit a wall on which passersby post their hopes and wishes. Having made her wish, Anne asks to be taken to the barge dance near the Castel Saint Angelo and there enjoys a romantic dance with Joe. When Mario shows up and cuts in, Joe and Irving become excited imagining the publicity potential of the headline "The Princess and the Barber." Just then, secret service agents from Anne's homeland grab her and start to drag her away. Anne screams for Joe, who races to the rescue and instigates a brawl. Anne gleefully joins in the fracas and jumps in the Tiber River with Joe to escape capture. After swimming to safety, Joe and Anne embrace and kiss, then return to Joe's apartment. There, Anne hears a radio report about the distress her "illness" is causing her people and sadly tells Joe she must leave. Stopping near the embassy, Joe and Anne share a final, passionate kiss before Anne runs off into the night. In the embassy, Anne's advisors scold her for neglecting her duty, but Anne silences them by stating that duty was the only reason she came back. The next day, Hennessy drops by Joe's apartment, anxious to collect his story, and is dismayed when Joe insists he does not have one. Irving then shows up with the photographs he took of Anne, but Joe refuses to use them. Later, Anne appears at the previously scheduled press conference and is pleasantly surprised to see Joe and Irving there. After Joe lets her know through his public comments that her secrets are safe with him, Anne deviates from protocol and shakes hands with the reporters. Irving then gives her the photos he took, and with tears in her eyes, she tells Joe how much she has enjoyed meeting him. Heartbroken, Joe watches Anne retreat with her advisors and walks out of the embassy alone.