Life on the island of Pantelleria is becoming more difficult by the day. The ferries to the Sicilian mainland have problems running on time because of a strong wind that rises up with no warning, leaving havoc and ruin in its wake. Michele Giangrande is a rich landowner who lives in Palermo. He inadvertently causes the death of the Rizzos, a husband and wife team who manage Giangrande's land on the island. They have to consign a shipment of capers to the port by 6 a.m. and on the journey, their lorry skids on the slippery road and drops into the sea killing them both. They leave a young daughter called Maria Sole, whom Giangrande, on the suggestion of his wife, Flora. enrols at boarding school in Trapani.
The years go by and Michele Giangrande has become rich and socially prominent. A local politician called Licata, whose daughter is engaged to Giangrande's son, Paolo, persuades the landowner that he should take over the administration of all the church run hospitals of the area. Giangrande is the right man for the job as he is an honest man with a good name, all the more so since his predecessor left under a cloud.
Maria Sole has grown into a lovely teenager and one day, Flora reminds Giangrande that it is time to fulfil their old promise of bringing the girl to the island to visit her aunt. Giangrande goes to Trapani to pick Maria Sole up but when he sees her, is overwhelmed by her beauty and they become lovers. He instantly realises the damage this affair could cause him and he disappears. Maria Sole decides to go the Giangrande's house in Palermo where Flora welcomes her like the daughter she never had, but beginning with the first "family" dinner, Salvatore, the other Giangrande son, cannot take his eyes off Maria Sole...