Rome's Ponte Milvio bridge: 'Padlocks of love' removed

A workman cuts padlocks hanging hanging along the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome, Italy, 10 September 2012
Image caption Broken hearts: The lovers padlocks are being removed to protect the bridge

Thousands of "love padlocks" on a Roman bridge are being removed with bolt-cutters in order to protect the ancient structure.

Couples have been decorating the Ponte Milvio bridge on the river Tiber with locks for several years.

They are meant to symbolise the locking of hearts, inspired by a story described in a novel.

The city council said rust from the locks, which hang off chains, is harming the fabric of the bridge.

The custom is inspired by a book by novelist Federico Moccia in which a couple place a bicycle lock around a lamppost and throw the key into the Tiber.

The gesture was meant to symbolise the couple eternally locking their hearts together.

It took off and clusters of padlocks can be found near other landmarks in other Italian cities.

It is not the first time city authorities have stepped-in to break the locks apart.

Last year the council started a round of padlock cutting after complaints from residents that it equated to vandalism.

In 2007 the then mayor of Rome introduced a 50 euro (£40) a fine on couples found attaching padlocks to the bridge.

The BBC's Rome correspondent, Alan Johnston, says many people in Rome like the custom, and the writer behind the trend has said the locks ought to be left alone.

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