by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Enjoying the gardens in Florence

As soon as I set foot on the narrow path in the Giardino Bardini, I feel a sense of tranquility come over me. While the gravel crunches under my feet, the hum of the city begins to fade. I take the shortcut to the top by hiking up the steps in the middle section of the gardens. At the top of the staircase, I see the two statues on the terrace wall. Instead of walking through the gardens on the right, I turn left and walk up the incline. I feel a sense of excitement as I stroll through the tunnel of purple and pink wisteria that has just started hanging down. When I reach the top, I look out at Florence and can only hear the birds chirping and the church bells ringing in the distance.

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Living in Florence :: Florence still takes my breath away

The other day I was standing outside a friendís door on via dei Servi waiting to be buzzed in and I saw the Duomo at the end of the street. I was so taken by the view and the way the sun was shining on the street that I took a photo. It got me thinking about just how incredibly fortunate I am to enjoy so much beauty. Instead of going home directly after my appointment, I walked around the Duomo to admire it in its entirety. I was so taken by its beauty that I almost didnít notice how crowded it was in front of the Duomo. When I finally looked around me, I saw tourists huddled in groups, bikes zigzagging around us, and horse drawn carriages ringing their bells and making their way through the crowds.

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Living in Florence :: Being present on the Ponte Santa Trinita

Standing in the middle of the Ponte Santa Trinita, I feel as if I am in the center of Florence. Itís not that the ponte (bridge) is in the middle of the city physically, but it is where I feel completely immersed in Florenceís energy. On the ponte, I feel as if I am a part of Florenceís completeness with the water flowing below me, people circulating around me, and the buildings and monuments above me.

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Living in Florence :: Running in Florence and taking photos

When I head out for a run in the morning, I am excited not just to run, but also to bask in my beloved city's beauty. I enjoy running outside, even when I'm on vacation, to see more of my surroundings. Of all the places where I have run, Florence is my favorite. Not just because Florence has such lovely monuments and churches, but because of how Mother Nature enhances her beauty. At sunrise and sunset, the sun casts a golden light on the city. When it's cloudy, the pastel-colored buildings become more vibrant. When the wind dies down, the Arno is so still that you can see the reflections of the buildings on it. After a big rain, the water in the Arno flows swiftly and cascades over the three pescaie (weirs) in town.

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Living in Florence :: My heart is everywhere

Every experience inspires you to fully embrace who you are. For the last five years, I have been bouncing back and forth between Florence and Paris. Initially, I was overjoyed to go back to Paris where my expat life first began, but slowly it became less joyful for me. When I moved to Florence the first time, I blocked Paris out of my mind so that I could fully experience Florence. I didnít want to keep looking over my shoulder wondering what my life would be like in Paris, so I closed that chapter of my life and began a new one in Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Taking the time to cultivate joy

Every morning I open up my persiane (shutters) and look out at the sky above the four-story hotel that blocks my view of San NiccolÚ. I canít see the sun rising along the Arno, but I can see the vivid colors filling up the sky. If the sky isnít overcast, I consider going outside to stand along the Arno and watch the sunrise. Most of the time, however, my head convinces me to stay home where I am comfortable and warm. Sometimes I do feel inspired to just head outside no matter what thoughts might prevent me.

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Living in Florence :: Florence's beauty is love

Beauty is not just pleasing to the eye; itís also pleasing to the heart and soul. Iím fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it isnít enough for me to just fall asleep and wake up in Florence every day. I do my best to take the time to walk around Florence so that I can admire and appreciate her every day. I always carry my iPhone in my pocket so that Iím ready to take a picture the moment I see something that inspires me. Inevitably a lot inspires me and I take a lot of pictures on my walks.

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Living in Florence :: Being supported by Florence

This year has been an intense one for me. I didnít realize the intensity of it until I went to California at the end of July. All of a sudden, everything came to a halt when I fell ill. For three weeks, I was tired and feverish. I tried to get better, but my body just needed a break. The only thing that made me feel better was doing absolutely nothing. All the plans I had made for my trip were cancelled and I even missed my friendís wedding, which was one of the main reasons of my going to California.

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Living in Florence :: Embracing the hope of a new day

At 7am this morning, I opened up my shutters and got excited when I saw the vibrant pink, light blue, and gold sky. I stood gazing out at the sky, but buildings blocked my view. I debated for about a minute whether I was really going to go outside or not. I really wanted to, but I hadnít even had my tea yet and was just waking up. I looked out again at the sky and I just couldnít resist going outside. I threw on my sweats, grabbed a jacket, laced up my sneakers, and raced out the door.

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Living in Florence :: Chasing sunsets and finding peace

For the past couple of weeks, I have tried to go outside as often as possible to watch the sunset. I initially thought that I just wanted to observe the sky change color Ė from blue to yellow to orange and pink Ė as the sun inched its way down the sky. What I realized, however, after going out a couple of evenings in a row was that the sunsets were allowing me to be more present. I was able to enjoy a peaceful moment in which I truly appreciated not just the day, but also my life and where it had brought me.

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Living in Florence :: Sunrise stroll along the Arno

When the church bells rang five times this morning, I was surprised that I was fully awake. I looked out the window and saw that it was already light outside. The sun hadnít risen high enough yet for the ponte (bridge) to cast its long shadow on the Arno so I thought that I would finally go outside to take some photos. I had wanted to get up early to take photos of my beloved city and never woke up early enough. Even if I didnít plan on it, it was actually the best thing I could do on a Sunday morning.

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Living in Florence :: Mesmerized by the fireworks for San Giovanni

In the late evening, I always enjoy a walk along the Arno and stop on a ponte (bridge) to take a photo of the sunset. Last night, however, I was on Ponte alle Grazie for a completely different reason: to watch the fuochi díartificio (fireworks), which we call ďfochiĒ in Florence to celebrate the Festa di San Giovanni, Florenceís feast day. I have only seen the fochi a couple of times since Iíve been living here. A few years ago, I watched the fireworks from Ponte San NiccolÚ and wrote about it in a blog entry.

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Living in Florence :: My home in Florence

In the morning, the city hums outside my apartment windows. Shortly after the sun rises, I am awakened by the garbage truck that beeps as it reverses into position in the piazza below. I bask in the sounds of my beloved city as it awakens. I slowly get up when I hear the church bells ring seven times. At the same time, I hear the workmen at the cantieri (construction site) in the piazza arrive and greet each other. These are some of the familiar sounds in my neighborhood that I associate with being home in Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Enjoying the unpredictable weather

This summer more than ever the weather seems to be a bit quirky in Florence. Almost ever day, the weather surprises me by how it can change so quickly and dramatically. It could be sunny in the morning, then itíll begin to rain, and just when you least expect it, the sun reappears. Yesterday, we had a temporale (thunder shower) in the afternoon and then in the early evening the skies cleared and made way for a lovely sunset.

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Living in Florence :: Florence nurtures me back to my heart

After being in Paris for two weeks, something shifted in me. The city did not change, but I did. At the beginning of this week, I felt completely empty. I tried many different things to cheer myself up, but nothing seemed to work. Running didnít give me a high, I wasnít inspired to take any pictures, and my writing projects didnít excite me anymore. When I was in Florence just a few weeks ago, I had focused on one writing project in particular and was happily working on my fourth draft. But after returning to Paris, I felt completely empty as if I had nothing to write.

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