When I got back from Italy the first time and mentioned how there were all sorts of padlocks on the bridges, everyone seemed to know what that meant.  I had no clue.  For those of you who have been ignorant like me, a brief explanation of “love padlocks”:

“Love Padlocks” are simply locks hooked around a chain, handle or any part of a bridge by two lovers who have thrown the key into the water to symbolize their eternal love.  The lovers names are written with a felt-tip pen on one side of the lock, and the date on the other.

This custom has an uncertain origin, but in Rome their popularity can most directly be attributed to the teen romance book “Ho Voglia di Te” by Federico Moccia, later made into a major motion picture.  The book has been translated and has had steller sales in Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese, but has yet to have an English translation.  In the book and movie of the same name, full of the teen angst Stephanie Meyers has popularized in America, a young Roman couple attach a padlock to Rome’s Ponte Milvio as a statement to the world that their love, like that padlock without a key, will remain forever.

Well, until the city council decides to cut them off, that is, like they did in Florence.  5500 padlocks were removed from the Ponte Vecchio bridge in 2006, the city council stating that it was scratching and damaging the metal of the bridge.

Love Padlocks didn’t start with “Ho Voglia di Te” in 2006 – in some parts of the world there are stories of the tradition’s origins going back decades, to before WWII.  But in Italy the trend’s snowballing popularity is attributed – blamed, even – on Moccia’s popular story.

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