It’s a scene you won’t have difficulty finding throughout Italy.

Head to almost any piazza, especially just before lunch until well past dinner, and you’ll find Italian men playing cards. This is especially true of le vecchie guardie, or the old guard. Yes, the Italian old boys’ club.

This is one of my favorite photos that I’ve captured during my adventures in Italy. This particular scene unfolded in the small center square of an Umbrian hillside town. Normally, I have to be a bit sneaky to capture an authentic moment. But these Italian men, as you can see, are completely focused on playing cards. The center figure with his dark shades (smart to obscure his eyes to prevent giving hints to his competitors) is being watched with great anticipation.

I’ve yet to see a single woman included in these card games.

Maybe in younger groups and in more progressive, metropolitan centers (think Milan) you’ll find the integration of the sexes. But, I suspect, with the gatherings of le vecchie guardie, the confines of participation are clearly drawn and understood. You’ll also see groups of women gathered, sans men, in piazzas. They’re usually sharing the latest gossip, dispensing advice, or making observations about what is unfolding around them.

I will never tire of observing such gatherings.

And this is where my trusty 300mm and 70-200mm high-end Canon lenses come in handy. I guess you can start calling me the paparazzo of the gatherings of Italian men and Italian women. And, yes, the older, more seasoned characters tend to attract my attention. Time to head out again and see if I scope out spots where similar scenes drenched in fascinating character studies play out before my eyes!

If you’re interested in more glimpses into the life of Italian men, particularly le vecchie guardie, check out my previous photo essay!

See this and other black and white photos in my online gallery.