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In 1889 the young physician Carlo Rocchi falls in love with Anna Valli, but her father, a professor of medicine, persuades the doctor to leave Rome. Rocchi sets up his practice in Orbetello, where he uses innovative methods to combat an outbreak of malaria. While attempting to forget Anna, the solitary physician remains indifferent to the advances of neighbor Barbara Soldani, who in a fit of jealousy suggests to the townspeople that Rocchi is responsible for deaths during the epidemic. At his trial all witnesses, including Professor Valli, decry his unorthodox techniques. Sentenced to 4 years in prison and forbidden to practice medicine, Rocchi becomes an orderly in the prison hospital. After successfully innoculating himself against malaria and thereby demonstrating the efficacy of vaccination, Rocchi is released, marries Anna, and resumes his career.