The Italian Almanac

ponte Milvio

Italian News - August 8

One of the Eternal City's oldest bridges has this summer become the focus a grand romantic ritual that has seized the imagination of hundreds of couples from Rome and abroad. Lovers testify to their everlasting love by attaching a chain and a small padlock to a lamp-post on the northern end of the Ponte Milvio Bridge. They write their names on the lock in felt-tip pen and then throw the keys into the River Tiber.

Performing this rite guarantees that two people will remain together forever, according to a new urban legend that has been spread by word of mouth. The symbolism of the lock is heightened by the place where the ritual takes place: on a bridge - representing the joining of two worlds - and in Rome - a city which is supposed to be eternal.

The Ponte Milvio bridge was built in AD 109 and, standing on a key route into Rome, was the site of fierce battles in ancient times. It was rebuilt several times over the centuries, acquiring watchtowers and a triumphal arch. It is now a footbridge.

So far, city authorities have done nothing to stop the new tradition which has grown up there and the original 'lamp-post of love' is now so covered in hundreds of chains and locks that visitors have had to start on a new one. But if things go the way they did on a bridge in Florence, they may soon have to act.

A statue on Florence's famous Ponte Vecchio also became the focus of a similar lover's rite last year and a team of metal cutters spent weeks removing the 5,000 locks that had accumulated on it. This spring railings were put up around the statue and council officials told police to hand out 50-euro fines to defiant couples who insisted on declaring their love in metallic terms.