Deep within the Roman Cave there is the wall. It is all that separates the Germans from the wine that they covet. Yet they cannot see it, because the wall is an illusion, an illusion that protects the wine. The wall, as an illusion, is symbolic
of the real secret of Santa Vittoria. Nothing and no one are what they seem to be. There is Bombolini, the clown, who is a student of Machiavelli and the only one capable of leading his people in this time of crisis. There is Babbaluche, the cynic, who is willing to give his life for his village, because his death will be the greatest joke that he can perpetrate upon the German invaders. And then there is the Malatesta. She, who is the aristocrat amongst the peasants, will give herself to Captain Von Prum to save the life of Tufa. Who better expresses the value and significance of one life? The great irony of the novel is of course that she must pay the price for her act, because she is a woman. Yet she and Babbaluche are the real heroes of the novel. They see the reality of the situation and they have the courage to act on their convictions despite the consequences. And then there is Bombolini, the clown, who will manipulate the illusion to save both his people and the wine.