Paparazzi ordered to bring on the boys

Scandal isn't what it used to be in the world of Italian photo-journalism. Once, the paparazzi were content to snap away at Anita Ekberg as she splashed in the Trevi fountain and call it the sensation of the century.

No longer, alas. In this cynical age of topless bathing, nude pin-ups and royal toe sucking, the paparazzi have been forced to find new ways to shock.

Beautiful women - are pretty passe. It seems we have had too much of them. What the gossip rags are really after this summer are famous menwith as few clothes on as possible.

"Bring me men!" the editors are saying. "And how," says Italy's leading paparazzo, Massimo Sestini, whose Florence-based agency is responsible for many of the unflattering shots adorning this summer's glossies.

It is not a pretty sight. Last week, the lightweight news magazine Epoca caught the Italian Prime Minister, Lamberto Dini, wearing little more than a skimpy pair of shorts and a sun hat at his wife's family villa in Tuscany. It splashed the picture, providing readers with a glimpse of the pale flab behind his habitual three-piece suits.

The week before, Eva Tremila caught the ultra-Catholic conservative politician Pier Ferdinano Caselli with his pants down - the pictures displayed the full glory of Mr Caselli's backside as he changed into his trunks aboard a yacht. Foreigners, too, are fair game. Another downmarket glossy, Gente, showed the 350 pounds of Marlon Brando in his underpants.

By all accounts it is not as easy as it looks. "Photographing men in the altogether is quite a business, unless you are lucky enough to catch them changing their undies," Mr Sestini told Corriere della Sera.

His troops are out in force in all the usual holiday spots: Sardinia's Costa Smeralda, the Argentario peninsula north of Rome, and the Aeolian islands off Sicily. His big ambition? To catch Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's most prominent public figure, in his birthday suit. "We just spent five days in Sardinia trying to get him, but couldn't even snap him with his clothes on."