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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 16:53 GMT
Rome mayor in 'love padlock' row
By Dana Enulescu

Love padlocks on Ponte Milvio
Young lovers leave padlocks on a lamp post overlooking the Tiber
Rome's left-wing Mayor Walter Veltroni has clashed with the right-wing opposition over padlocks left by lovers on a bridge in the city.

He has introduced fines for anyone leaving a padlock on a lamp post on the Ponte Milvio, over the Tiber river.

Many young lovers have hung padlocks there, throwing the keys in the Tiber, so the lamp post is laden with them. The padlocks bear lovers' messages.

The opposition accused Mayor Veltroni of "trampling on lovers' rights".

The love padlock craze comes from a romantic rite mentioned in two novels by Federico Moccia, Tre Metri sopra il Cielo (Three metres above the sky) and Ho Voglia di Te (I Desire You).

The books, published in 1992 and 2006, have become cult novels for young Italians.

Love padlocks have spread into music, with singer Tiziano Ferro producing a video and director Luis Prieto announcing a film about the phenomenon.

A literary prize has been born - "The Golden Padlock" - which is awarded on Ponte Milvio every year on Saint Valentine's Day, 14 February.

Political row

According to the urban legend, lovers will spend their lives together if they write their names on a padlock and place it on the Ponte Milvio's third lamp post, coming from Corso Francia, then throw the key in the Tiber.

Walter Veltroni
Rome's Mayor Veltroni wants to fine lovers who leave padlocks

Love padlocks were pioneered by youngsters in Florence, who hang them near a statue of the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini at the Ponte Vecchio - the famous bridge over the River Arno. They then throw the key into the Arno.

But the left-wing Mayor of Florence, Leonardo Domenici, got fed up with removing 375kg (825 pounds) of padlocks every year and instituted a 50-euro (34; $66) fine for young lovers indulging in the custom.

Mayor Veltroni copied the measure, slapping a 50-euro fine on the romantic transgressors.

Forza Italia and the National Alliance, the two main right-wing opposition parties, promptly accused the mayor of violating lovers' rights.

A spokesman for the mayor said city hall was not against the custom, but wanted to find an alternative location, so that one of the oldest monuments in the Italian capital could be "freed".

Ponte Milvio (the Milvian Bridge) was the site of a famous battle between Maxentius and Constantine, two pretenders for the title of Roman emperor, on 28 October 312.

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