Viewpoint: The Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio was the setting for these locks of love, symbolising an eternal bond. But young couples didn’t reckon with the might of bolt cutters.

Particular of Benvenuto Cellini monument, Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Tuscany, Italy

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence; an emblem of the great city since 1345. But for a brief period in its illustrious reign it also became the site of a thousand ardent teenage declarations of love. A more recent phenomenon saw young lovers decorating padlocks with their initials, clamping them to the railings around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini and discarding the key into the river Arno – a symbol of their unbreakable love.

No one is quite sure where the ritual sprang from; the practice seems to have first taken root in Hungary. One thing is certain however: Florence’s officials were deeply unhappy about the practice.

The bonds of love it transpired could be broken and indeed were with bolt cutters, before the threat of hefty fines warned other sweethearts off paying through the nose for love. Now only the most dedicated of lovers dare to risk all with a padlock for their paramour and lesser teenagers resume giving their love immortality with old-fashioned graffiti.