19 January 2014

Why are there so many padlocks on bridges in Italy?

Lock your love in Italy

For a wedding present, a friend of mine gave me a padlock with the initials of my husband and I scrawled on it in permanent marker. In the attached card, she wrote for us to go to Venice and "lock our love". I had no idea why but it was a wonderful, mysterious present.

Once we got to Venice, we soon saw the answer. All along the Rialto Bridge, the Ponte dell'Accademia and Scalzi Bridge are rows and rows of padlocks, all with a pair of initials inscribed on them.
Rows of padlocks on
 the Ponte dell'Accademia

If you go to Florence, you'll find the same on the Ponte Vecchio. And in Rome you'll find them on the Ponte Milvio.

Apparently it's a trend that started in Rome a few years ago. Young lovers would inscribe their initials on the a padlock and then throw the key into the river Tiber as a symbol of eternal love.

It's thought a novel by Federico Moccia inspired the cult. The book, called Three Metres above the Sky was later followed up with I Want You, in which a young couple from very different backgrounds begin a romance. They attach a padlock to Rome's Ponte Milvio in order to seal their everlasting love.

I say apparently, because unfortunately, the book doesn't seem to have been translated into English. And, my Italian is pretty much limited to wine and food.

Unfortunately, the Italian authorities don't like it much.They claim the padlocks damage the historic bridges and that they are an eyesore. So they've been removing padlocks from the bridges in Venice and Rome and 5,500 were removed from the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence with the reason provided that they were scratching and denting the metal of the bridge.
The romantic view from the Ponte dell'Accademia

There were signs up everywhere giving threats of fines for anyone caught attaching a padlock to the bridges. And, in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio bridge was patrolled by police (we weren't sure whether this was because of the padlocks or the pickpockets).

It doesn't seem to stop people carrying out the ritual though. As there was little evidence of any locks being missing with the rails and posts of the bridges literally bulging. And, on nearly all the stalls surrounding the bridges there are locks being sold for a few Euro and they will even help you out with a permanent marker so you can brand your padlocks.
The Ponte Vecchio in Florence
And I think they look lovely and not an eyesore at all. Plus, the whole romance of the act really helps add to the romance of the cities. I think it is a lovely thought to imagine thousands of couples throwing keys into the river, with the same hope in their souls that this symbolic gesture will help ensure their love survives the rocky waters ahead.

And did we attach our padlock to the bridge? Well of course not. It's not allowed....

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