being in Italy?
Being in Italy, in love.
And who knows love better than the people who love life, I ask you? No one. Well, maybe them and that guy from The Notebook.
This is a post dedicated to good old-fashioned love being shown in a not so old-fashioned way. None of that Italian Stallion crap, but the kind of genuine romance that reminds you of your first love or your first kiss. The kind of love that makes you want to read all Nicholas Sparks’ novels over and over and cry every time.
Think of your average lock. The kind you put on your locker at school or the gym. A totally mundane object that you have likely bought a hundred times in your life and then thrown away once you forgot the combination or lost the key. Now imagine that same lock with two people’s names written on it and imagine it hanging off the bar of a quiet bridge in some little town in Italy. Suddenly, it’s something special. Suddenly, all its qualities of “security,” “safety,” “permanence”, and “lock-abilty” take on a new meaning. Now imagine 50 of those same locks all with different people’s names scribbled on them, all locked to the same place. That is a whole lot of love proclaimed in a beautifully subtle and sweet way that just makes me want to cry.I first noticed the “lover’s locks” in Florence on the bridge by my house. It was a small batch at first but it started to grow. I didn’t quite understand what they were as most of the names had faded away having been exposed to the elements for some time. One day, I noticed a new one had been added and saw two names on it, suddenly it all made sense. Then, I saw that these same bunches of locks (looking somewhat like bunches of grapes) were on many of the bridges, and not just in Florence. I saw them in Rome, Siena, Venice, Milan, and Verona.
The Lover’s Lock motherload can be found on the famous Via dell’Amore (lover’s walk) in Cinque Terre. Between the towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola is a little hike that has been dubbed “lover’s walk,” thanks to a legend about it being the popular meeting place for lovers from the two towns. Today, the rock walls that line the path are covered in the names of couples and lead to the “Lover’s Lock,” a fenced-in area where hundreds upon hundreds of couples have “sealed” their love with a lock. A-DOR-ABLE. This little nook comes complete with a lover’s throne showing two figures kissing, providing the real lover’s with a photo op once they have made it official with their lock.
Sadly, there can only be so many locks. After a while, the city comes and cuts them down, which seems sad only for the short time before ten more appear in their place. Love lives, as they say. In some cities, Rome for example, the problem of the locks got so bad that they had to install special metal bars just to hold the incredible quantities of locks being left. It is a little less authentic, but saves the city from having to constantly repair ancient bridges (see New York Times article here). You can even buy locks in Tabacchi made just for this purpose, complete with lines where the names go, perhaps a little heart embellishment, and in colors like red, purple, and pink.
After having witnessed this amazing phenomenon in so many cities, I of course had to participate myself. I picked my very own bridge and my very own lock (the old school version, thank you) and sealed someone special to the metal bar. I don’t pretend to think it is still there, but I also think that is part of what makes it so lovely. It is a gesture. It really doesn’t matter if the lock is still there. It is the thought and the symbol behind that act that counts. The city can cut down the locks for years to come. They will come back. They always do.