In Rome, breaking the chains of love requires a hacksaw -- literally.
Sweethearts in the Italian capital have adopted a new ritual as a symbol of undying love: hanging a padlock on a lamppost on the city's most ancient bridge and throwing the key into the Tiber.
The craze has drawn hundreds of couples in the few months since it started -- causing city officials to wonder whether the ancient Roman bridge is suited for such an overwhelming display of passions.
"The rite has reached a dimension that will be difficult to cope with. We must guarantee the bridge's decency while preserving this beautiful practice," said Marco Perina, a city official.
Some couples write their names or a message on the lock. They throw the key into the river over their shoulders to avoid seeing where it falls.
It's quite a change of scenery for a bridge that has seen more war than love since it was built in the second century B.C. Ponte Milvio served as the battlefield between rival emperors Constantine and Maxentius in 312; it was the backdrop of the Italians' struggle for independence in the 1800s.
Today the pedestrian bridge is close to the Olympic stadium -- a soccer battleground -- north of the city's historical center.
The idea of the love locks is not new in Italy. But Ponte Milvio owes its new reputation mainly due to two novels depicting the love of Roman teenagers. The books have sold a combined 2.5 million copies and were both made into movies.
The padlock ritual has spilled into a music video and inspired a prize -- "The Golden Padlock" -- awarded to the best love message on Valentine's Day. In the process, it has started drawing tourists to an area that is usually off the beaten track.
Such huge attention also caused some undesired consequences. Hundreds of locks were stolen last week -- although they were found the following day and are to be put back in a ceremony expected to draw the city's mayor.
A check ordered by city officials showed the locks posed no threat to the stability of the lamppost. But officials are looking for an alternative site amid fears the bridge may be damaged. One possibility is to put up a "lovers' lamppost" in a square near the bridge.
"We want to keep this tradition alive. It's becoming like tossing a coin in the Trevi fountain," said Perina.
Personally, I'd prefer to visit the Milvian Bridge than that ugly fountain ...