Thursday, 19 September 2013


This man is breaking the law :

So is this one :

The guy in the first picture is selling padlocks for tourists to attach to the railings on the Accademia bridge. A victim of his own success, he's having to rearrange all the locks on that stretch as best he can in order to try and make room for a few more. He probably has a permesso di soggiorno, although it's  unlikely that it says that he's in the country to make a living by defacing a national monument.

The man in the second picture is writing his name and that of his partner on a padlock. When this is done, he'll fix it to the bridge and throw the key into the Grand Canal as a symbol of their undying love.

It leaves wide stretches of the bridge looking  like this :

This supposedly started in Rome some years back, inspired by the film Tre metri sopra il cielo, but now seems to be little more than a herd instinct encouraged by the abusivi on the bridge. This is tourism at its most stupid and ugly. It is no different, in essence, from spraying "West Ham is a Poof" on the wall of a pub toilet.

There has been a bit of vigilante action where local citizens have started trying to remove the locks by themselves. But it's laborious, difficult work and bolt-cutters are not easy to use - you can end up damaging both yourself and the structure. The responsibility should lie with the city itself. But what's the point in doing it if they'll just build up again within weeks?

There's the occasional clampdown by the police. A recent one was celebrated as if they'd succeeded in recovering a stolen Caravaggio instead of twenty-five padlocks. The deterrent effect of this lasted less than a day.

I don't know why this annoys me so much. Perhaps it's the thought that the chance to visit this city should be seen as being among the greatest experiences that life has to offer, and not just like a visit to a tacky theme park. The difference, of course, is that if you were to try anything like this in Disneyland Mickey Mouse would kick your arse within minutes.


  1. I get rather frothing at the mouth over this atrocity, as well as other acts of vandalism in Venice. How in heck can it be stopped!

  2. I agree about it being furiously annoying- it's one of those stupid and totally pointless things people do that absolutely drive me mad. At least the countless sellers of those whirly things, blobby animals and roses are selling stuff that goes either home or (more likely) in a bin. The padlocks however are damaging the bridge and costing large amounts of money to remove.

    On a scale of things 'making me mad' it's probably only the huge cruise liners that equal the padlocks - and probably a goodly % of the cruise line passengers are also the padlock vandals.

  3. It must be the easiest crime in the world to stop, given that the sellers are standing in the middle of a bridge and don't exactly have a wide variety of escape routes.

    Maybe a different approach is needed : start fining those who actually buy the locks. Most visitors to Venice are only here for a couple of days - if word got around that you'd end up spending part of your holiday in a police station maybe people would start to get the idea that this was a really, really bad thing to do.

  4. Being an old romantic, when I first saw these a few years ago ( when there were perhaps 20 on the whole bridge) I thought it was a lovely expression of love. Now I see it as most level-headed folks see it. Vandalism. And the equivalent of giving your paramour an artificial rose on Valentine's day. I have seen photos of the authorities and police cutting them off but they probably can't keep up with the job.

    1. I actually saw one of the 'vigilantes' cutting off locks a couple of weeks ago. He had a large shopping trolley half-full of the things. There are now so many locks on the bridge, I couldn't see any difference :-(

      His group has an amusing flag, though -

  5. After spending a considerable amount of the last week feeling quite miserable about the major issues in Venice -big ships, mass tourism - and the disrespect shown by so many visitors - his enthusiastic bit of direct action cheered me up a bit!

  6. God yes, this kind of vandalism is spreading everywhere. I first saw it on a small bridge in Prague in 2009 and thought it was sweet, god help me! While living in Paris for several years though I became enraged at seeing the thousands of disfiguring locks on the Pont des Arts and other bridges and I'm sorry to hear it's spreading to Venice as well. Fining the tourists is a great idea but not one the tourism boards are likely to support.


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