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It is rare for a computer game to inspire an hour long session on Wikipedia to learn about a place, but it happens regularly with Assassin’s Creed. In anticipation for the third instalment, I’ve been replaying the second one, and if you haven’t played the game you just can’t understand what it is like to have Renaissance Florence come alive around you.

The game creators have been very careful to be historically accurate, and they have made a point to document a lot of things, like the lovers’ pad-locks on the Ponte Vecchio bridge. According to the mythology, lovers should lock a pad-lock on the bridge to lock eternal love in. This custom has caused a lot of headache (and some damage) to the bridge whose history go back to Roman times, but which was first mentioned in 966.

So today, the authorities spoil all the fun. “Today, there is a hefty penalty to all who are caught locking or attaching anything to the Ponte Vecchio. These days, lovers simply come to the famous bridge and simply touch the remaining padlocks that have not been removed. Luck has kept them there, locked to the bridge, perhaps some luck will rub off on the hopeful couple as well, and keep their love alive for eternity.

In the game you play the role of the Florentine nobleman Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and the goal is to perform a lot of missions running around in Florence and Venice. But half the time, you find yourself minimizing the game to go and read Wikipedia about some aspect, like padlocks on the Ponte Vecchio or the habit of Leonardo da Vinci to take a commission, and never finishing it as he tinkered with some other more fun gizmo like flying machines and naval cannons.

And all this when I should be doing school work… But I’m not only a student of English Literature. I also study history, so I can blame my Wikipedia binges on that. Right? History is history, no matter where the inspiration came from.

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