After couples decorated the Ponte Milvio on the river Tiber with “love padlocks” for years, they are now being removed with bolt-cutters in order to protect the ancient structure.
Inspired by a story described in a book by Federico Moccia, the locks are meant to symbolise the locking of hearts.
In the 2006 novel Ho voglia di te (I want you) a couple places a bicycle lock around a lamppost and throw the key into the Tiber, in a gesture meant to symbolise the couple locking their hearts together for eternity.
The gesture took off and clusters of padlocks can now be found near several landmarks in other Italian cities.
The author of the book shared his opinion about the removal of the ‘love padlocks’ late last year.
“With all the problems that Rome faces, is it really that important to cut off the padlocks?”, he wrote in the daily newspaper Il Tempo.
The author of the book said the locks should be left alone.
However the rust from the locks which hang off chains could cause permanent damage to the fabric of the bridge, said the city council.
He also suggested that graffiti and illegally posted advertisements represent a bigger issue for Rome.
Last year Roman authorities had already stepped-in to break the locks apart following complaints from residents that it equated to vandalism.
In 2007 a lamppost on the bridge partially collapsed due to the weight of attached locks.
The same year the then mayor of Rome introduced a 50 euro fine on couples found attaching padlocks to the bridge.
Opponents to the ‘love padlocks’ argue that they are unsightly and that the bridge is too old and important to be used in this way.
The Ponte Milvio dates back to 206BC, when Rome was starting to become the heartbeat of an empire that would later control much of Europe.
As the name indicates, in 312AD the Battle of Milvian Bridge took place on the historical landmark. It was a fight between the armies of two competing contenders for the role of Roman Emperor. During the battle Maxentius, one of the rivals, fell into the Tiber and drowned.
The battle was won by Constantine the Great who went on to rule Rome for a further 25 years.