There has been a tradition in Italy for many years in which two lovers secure a padlock to famous sites. The symbolism here is that their love is forever joined together at the site by the act of locking the padlock. Pretty romantic, eh?
Over the years, I have seen this tradition spread to the far reaches of Europe. I don’t know if the tradition has made it to the USA yet, but I bet it will someday. I first ran across these padlocks in Florence, on the Ponte Vecchio. Here there is a bust of Cellini, the famous goldsmith of Florence, and all around it were padlocks secured to the railings. Recently, I’ve noticed the city of Florence has placed a sign on the site stating, “It is illegal to put padlocks here.”
In the Cinque Terre, there is a path known as the “Via dell’ Amore” (the pathway of love) connecting the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola. Along this pathway, there is a “graffiti wall” where lovers leave their own graffiti scribbles and mark their special spot with a padlock. Lining the path are thousands of padlocks marking the site where love was securely locked in the hearts of two lovers. There is even a hardware shop in Riomaggiore that sells specially engraved padlocks with the Cinque Terre logo.
Originally, there was a wall of “lover-themed” murals along one section of the pathway. These were beautifully crafted designs by artists comissioned for the project. Almost as soon as the murals were completed, people began adding their own bit of graffiti. As you can imagine, this small amount of graffiti turned into a big glob of graffiti completely covering the original works of art. This went on unchecked for many years. In June, when I arrived in the Cinque Terre for the first time this season, I noticed the walls had been completely whitewashed, totally obliterating the original murals and the countless thousands of individual graffiti. Now, in August 2011, the whitewashed wall is filling up with new graffiti works, by new strolling lovers, leaving their marks of fame.
Yesterday, as Charlotte and I were walking this “lover’s lane,” we noticed a new tradition has sprung up. Apparently, it is a cheaper alternative to the padlock and has spread like wildfire along the path. The two lovers, instead of “locking thier love” with a padlock, now simply tie any object in a knot, symbolizing “tying the knot.” Unfortunately, this has created an ugly appearance at the once charming “Via dell’ Amore.” Now it has the appearance of trash and rubbish collecting along the path.
The matter is even more complicated in that the National Park has no direction and few employees as a result of scandal and corruption. Hence, there is no one to “police” the area and keep it clean.