City workmen removed some 1,500 “love locks” from the picturesque S. Angelo bridge on 9 October in the first skirmish of what city councillor Marco Visconti called a “battle for decorum”.
In a world-wide tradition believed to date from even before the first world war, sweethearts fix padlocks – usually bearing their names or initials – to a monument or in another public place to symbolise their everlasting love, and throw away the keys. In Rome, the custom was boosted by the success of the 2007 film adaptation of Federico Moccia’s book ‘Ho voglia di te’ (’I want you’), in which a young couple fix their love lock on the Ponte Milvio bridge.
In 2007, the weight of hundreds of love locks damaged street lights on the bridge, and the city council had to install pillars with chains to provide sweethearts with a safer place to attach their locks.
The removal will continue over the next few days on nearby bridges, in parks and historic piazzas, but we shall leave those on Ponte Milvio, Visconti said in a statement, because by now these represent a romantic ritual for so many young people. “We respect traditions,” he added, “but we can’t tolerate the city being invaded by this scrap metal which disfigures a valuable historic and artistic patrimony. Monuments, art-works, architectural jewels like for example the Sant’Angelo bridge, the Trevi Fountain or Villa Borghese deserve the maximum respect and should not be suffocated by metal.
“This is a battle for decorum,” Visconti continued, “that many citizens who love Rome will appreciate. We should treat the city as our home.”