Near where I live is Ponte Milvio, Rome’s oldest bridge. First built in 206 B.C., the bridge has always been a site of interest. According to Tacitus, the first century Roman historian and statesman, it was ‘famous for its nocturnal attractions,’ and was where the Emperor Nero conducted his debaucheries. In 312, Constantine, the first emperor to convert to Christianity, defeated his rival Maxentius at the Battle of Ponte Milvio.
Today Ponte Milvio is better known as a symbol of love. In 2006, Federico Moccia wrote I Want You, a story of young lovers in the north of Rome. The hero tells his love interest of an old legend: if lovers wrap a chain around a lamppost on Ponte Milvio, lock it with a padlock and throw the key into the Tiber, then they will never leave each other.
It’s a beautiful story but one that was simply invented for the book. The book and subsequent film were a big success, leading to life imitating art. Thousands of young lovers flock to attach their love locks, inscribed with their names and the date, onto the bridge.
What if you visit and decide on a whim that you’d like to make a gesture of love but haven’t brought a lock with you? Don’t worry – there’s usually a couple of vendors on the bridge who will sell you a lock for about €5; you can even buy a nice, heart shaped lock.
The weight of all these locks endangers the bridge’s delicate stonework and caused two lampposts to almost collapse. Steel bars were installed along the bridge as official sites for the love tokens in an attempt to stop lovers attaching their locks to the lampposts. It didn’t seem to make much difference so now they’ve been taken down and, instead, the city council regularly removes the locks from the lampposts.
So you may think your lock is a touching emblem of your everlasting love, but it just ends up at the city dump. Who says romance is dead??