1993: in a country rocked by corruption trials involving government, big business and the Vatican, people in the idyllic small city of Urbino, Raphael's birthplace, appear more concerned with love affairs than politics, their only worry an outbreak of spurious miracles.
Then Count Malaspino returns after years away and his support for the restoration of Raphael's La Muta ('the mute woman') drives a living mute to an act of violence that triggers ugly rumours. Does this woman know something terrible about Malaspino's past? Did she witness a literally 'unspeakable' crime that could shatter the peace of Urbino?
Her continued silence seems to be in everyone's interest except the gentle art restorer Charlotte Penton - and a television crew fronted by Donna Ricco, who can't shut up to save her life...or anyone else's.
There are as many liars as 'mutes' in Waking Raphael - Charlotte's bitter divorce has left her incapable of expressing herself except through painting. Her assistant, Paolo, won't confess his infatuation to the glamorous Donna for fear of exposing his dangerous private schemes; Donna, in turn, lies about her feelings for him.
Fabio's response to his fascist grandfather is to pose mutely as a statue of Raphael. Francesco, the ice-cream maker, knows it is suicide to speak out against Count Malaspino, who has always remained silent about his past - and present - life. But things cannot stay the same.
The result is a case which involves Italy's foremost investigators of miracles, causes charges to be made to the Italian Committee for Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, turns Urbino into a circus of charlatans and gurus, and requires testimonies from several unlikely witnesses - two of them dead.
Waking Raphael passionately evokes an Italy on the verge of a second renaissance while illustrating the often fatal, yet redemptive, consequences of telling the truth.