It was a royal flush – with an Italian twist.
Prince Charles sat down to a card game in a social centre in the heart of Florence on Monday, as he and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, continued their European tour.
“I’ve got a lot to learn,” he said as he surveyed the hand he was dealt, looking as though he would quite happily have settled in for the afternoon with the five elderly men sitting around the table.
Years of misspent youth, I see
Prince Charles to a Florentine card shark
One of the card players, a sprightly 83-year-old with white hair, offered to show him some card tricks.
The Prince of Wales jokingly looked up the pensioner’s sleeve to see if there were any cards hidden there.
“Ah yes, very clever,” he said after the man pulled off a deft sleight of hand which ended with him presenting the heir to the throne with a King. “Years of misspent youth, I see.”
The Casa San Paolino shelter, which is run by Caritas, a Catholic charity, is home to around 80 people, including single women with young children, immigrants and the elderly.
The royal couple also visited a world-class art restoration institution which is renowned for its skill in repairing and restoring centuries-old stone statues, paintings, tapestries and bronzes.
In the workshops of the Opificio Pietre Dure, they watched experts repair ancient Roman mosaics.
“It’s like a terrifying jigsaw puzzle,” the Prince of Wales said. “Marvelous, you have great talent.”
The technicians use traditional techniques that have not changed for centuries, including hand-driven bow saws which can cut through stone.
In the courtyard of the institute, Charles and Camilla were photographed in front of a bronze statue of St George – a replica of a marble original by Donatello.
The royals also visited an organic food market where the Prince entered into friendly rivalry with an Italian farmer over the quality of their respective products.
Charles makes a cold pork cut called “coppa” from the pigs he rears – as does Mario De Santis from his herd.
The Prince accepted a taste challenge from Mr De Santis, who insisted: “We are very good at making “coppa” because we have very good meat - so I think I will beat the Prince.” The heir to the throne was introduced to a range of local produce by campaigner Carlo Petrini, who started the Slow Food movement in the 1980s to defend regional food.
Prince Charles was due to accept the Renaissance Man of the Year award on Monday night at a dinner in a Renaissance palazzo hosted by Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence.
The award, which recognises achievements in the fields of philanthropy and the arts, is presented by the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation, which stages art exhibitions and cultural events in the Tuscan city.
The royal couple’s nine-day tour began in Romania last week.
On Tuesday they will meet the Pope at the Vatican, before ending their trip in Austria.