Omnia Vincit Amor? No More 'Locks of Love' at the Trevi Fountain

Workers have taken bolt cutters to thousands of padlocks attached to a church gate near the Trevi Fountain in Rome, after the city decided to put an end to a new romantic tradition. But prohibitions have so far failed to squelch the craze for lucchetti d'amore.

A romantic tradition in Italy has been snuffed out by unamused officials, who say the fashion for attaching "padlocks of love" to a rail and flinging the keys into a body of water is impractical.

A symbol of love?

A symbol of love?

Thousands of padlocks were cut from a church gate near the Trevi Fountain in Rome by city workers on Monday after a priest in the church complained about their proliferation.

"There were too many locks, and in any case this is a place of prayer," said one of the workmen, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. Two workmen used bolt cutters along the gate to snap off thousands of padlocks, each bearing the names of lovers from around the world. They loaded them into a van, which was evidently headed for the dump. "We'll chuck them," they said.

It's not the first time Italian authorities have wrestled with a padlock problem. Although the tradition of attaching padlocks to the gate near the Trevi Fountain is only around one year old, the craze seems to have arrived in Italy over a decade ago. In Florence, couples attached locks to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and flung the keys into the Arno River.

By 2006, the city had had enough and vowed to remove the 5,500 or so padlocks from the bridge railing. They instituted a €50 ($65) fine for attaching new locks, but still the workers couldn't remove the so-called lucchetti d'amore fast enough. "Because new locks were being attached faster than we could take them off, we had to cordon the area off," said a cultural affairs official in Florence at the time.

So lovers attached their locks to the barricades.

The lucchetti phenomenon was tolerable in Florence until about 2004, which happens to be the year a film called "Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo" ("Three Meters Above the Sky") showed two young lovers attaching a padlock to the Milvian Bridge in Rome and throwing the key into the Tiber.

The craze then grew in Florence and then spread to Rome and the Milvian Bridge itself, where a lamp post almost fell from the weight of the locks. Rome authorities had them removed and blocked off the bridge. Then someone set up a Web site where young lovers from around the world could type their names onto a virtual lock, attach it to a virtual bridge and throw the key into a virtual Tiber.

The site failed to satisfy young lovers, though, and the tradition moved to the Trevi Fountain about a year ago.

The origins of the craze are obscure, but it has also turned up in other countries, including Japan, where locks have caused at least one fence to collapse.

msm -- with wire reports


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