1914 : Giacomino "Mino " Rasi is the ten -year - old son of a Milan university mathematics professor . His family is friends with the aristocratic Austrian consul Karl Stolz and his much younger wife Freda . In August 1914 the Rasi family travels to Austria to visit the Stolz family . World War I has already broken out, but the spirit is upbeat and both families spend a happy time . That Italy , a member of the Triple Alliance , has remained neutral at the outbreak of the war causes a slight alteration between Karl and Minos father .