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That’s Amore

"Maria, I love you so much." Do you think Maria lives here?

“Maria, I love you so much.” Do you think Maria lives here?

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.

A declaration of love—a couple's initials are inscribed on a padlock locked to a bridge. The key is flung ceremoniously into the river below.

A declaration of love—a couple’s initials are inscribed on a padlock locked to a bridge. The key is flung ceremoniously into the river below.

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.

A profusion of padlocks memorializing relationships lost and found adorns a bridge in Lecce, Italy.

A profusion of padlocks memorializing relationships lost and found adorns a bridge in Lecce, Italy.

"You are my first thought when I wake in the morning and my last wish before I go to sleep."

“You are my first thought when I wake in the morning and my last wish before I go to sleep.”

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.

"I don't want to close my eyes. I don't want to go to sleep. Because I would miss you, little one. And I don't want to miss anything about you. Because when I dream of you, the most beautiful dream of all isn't enough. I love you."

“I don’t want to close my eyes. I don’t want to go to sleep. Because I would miss you, little one. And I don’t want to miss anything about you. Because when I dream of you, the most beautiful dream of all isn’t enough. I love you.”

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I actually think those padlocks are a form of vandalism. I hate them!!! There is a fine now for attaching them to structures on the Ponte Vecchio and I hope it stops people from doing this stupid thing. It is fairly recent and came from a book of fiction.

    February 15, 2013
    • I had no idea! The padlocks in Lecce were the first I’d seen; I didn’t know what prompted them and found them kind of sweet. Oh well. Graffiti is also a form of vandalism, of course, but compared to U.S. graffiti, I found myself charmed by these Italian professions of love that I can actually read.

      February 15, 2013
      • These locks are all over Paris bridges and in lots of other places. It costs local councils a fortune to remove them, only to have them reappear. I am really pleased Florence has taken a stand against them.

        February 19, 2013
      • So far no locks in the Valle d’Itria where we are. No significant rivers, so that probably has something to do with it. Keep holding the line in Florence!

        February 21, 2013

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