The Italian expression of Valentine’s Day includes most of the elements characteristic of its American counterpart. Still, we’ve noticed some especially beguiling touches unique to la dolce vita. So along with special, spendy restaurant dinners, overpriced greenhouse flowers and some really amazing chocolate, we’ve been cataloguing the more impulsive, yet deeply felt expressions of love on display all over town.
Although we’ve seen it elsewhere in Europe, the practice of declaring one’s bond to another by affixing a padlock to a well-known bridge, then throwing away its key in a show of symbolism is alive and well in southern Italy. Padlocks of all shapes and sizes adorned with initials and hearts encumber romantic bridges everywhere. We often wonder about the fate of these couples. Are there multiple padlocks that belong to single individuals? What happens when serial padlock partners find evidence of le corna (cheating)? We haven’t spotted any jilted, hacksaw-wielding individuals at work on a padlock yet, but maybe our timing hasn’t been right.
Far from the unintelligible and even menacing graffiti we’ve come to accept in the U.S., graffiti we’ve seen in Puglia serves to affirm undying love, longing and even pleas for forgiveness. And the language goes beyond a simple “Ti voglio bene” (I love you) or “Ti amo” (I am in love with you). Some artists signal the exact day the relationship began; others share that their innamorata (lover) is their first thought of the day and last wish before they go to sleep. Still others allude to past transgressions by writing “Notwithstanding everything, I love you.” And we love sharing the moment as we walk through the streets of our town, imagining what has transpired, dreaming of graffiti all our own.