Margie Krebsbach dreams up the idea of a trip to Rome, hoping to get her husband Carl to make love to herhes been sleeping across the hall and she has no idea why. She finds a patriotic purpose for the journey. A Lake Wobegon boy, Gussy Norlander, died in the liberation of Rome, 1944, and his grave, according to his elderly brother, Norbert, is in a neglected weed patch near the Colosseum. So its decided they will go to clean Gussys final resting place.
Margie is unprepared for the enthusiastic response - fifty people want to go with her, including her nemesis, the mayor of Lake Wobegon, Carls bossy sister, Eloise, Mr. Berge the town drunk, and her treacherous mother-in-law. Margie fends off some of the would-be travelers with a graphic handout on the dangers of typhus and food poisoning and the seriousness of diarrhea, but ten applicants remain, though Carl is not sure he wants to go after all.
At this, a heartbroken Margie gets the motley crew to the airport and aboard the plane, and then discovers one of the secret pleasures of travel - safely away from Lake Wobegon, the pilgrims memories are quickened and they recall long-forgotten incidents. In the warm circle of kinship, as they enter alien territory, they tell stories of astonishing frankness and self-revelation all delivered with Keillors trademark humor.