In 1959/1960 Rome, Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) is a writer and journalist, the worst kind of journalist--a tabloid journalist. His job is to try to catch celebrities in compromising or embarrassing situations. He tends to get quite close to his subjects--especially when they're beautiful women. Two such subjects are local heiress Maddalena (Anouk Aimee), and Swedish superstar-actress Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), with both of whom he has affairs despite being engaged to Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), a clingy, insecure, nagging, melodramatic woman. Despite his extravagant, pleasure-filled lifestyle, he is wondering if maybe a simpler life wouldn't be better.