by Melinda Gallo

My morning runs are a special time for me to connect with my beloved city and find more things about it that I appreciate. Yesterday, I ran away from the city center toward Ponte da Verrazzano. What struck me was that after crossing Ponte di San NiccolÚ, I looked around me and noticed that I couldíve been almost anywhere in Italy. Along the sidewalk I was running on, there was a small giardino (garden) to my right with the Arno below it and six-story apartment buildings on my left with shops on the ground floor. When I crossed the Ponte da Verrazzano to run back home, I felt the same thing. It wasnít until I crossed Ponte di San NiccolÚ and had a clear view of the top of the Duomo that I felt I was in Florence.

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The first thing I do on my first Saturday back in Florence is shop for groceries on via dei Neri. Not just because Iím eager to get my hands on some local produce and favorite Tuscan delicacies, but also because I get to reconnect with all the shopkeepers who have become good friends of mine. While I am away, my marito buys groceries and they always ask about me and tell him to make sure he says hello to me. Iíve sent them postcards and brought back pensierini (little gifts) from Paris. They rarely take breaks from work and seem to enjoy hearing about my travels.

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When I first started going to Paris, I would leave on Saturday afternoon. After a few trips, I discovered that my weekend was cut in half. I rushed around Paris to have brunch somewhere and then headed to the airport. I wouldnít arrive in Florence until the early evening and then I would eat and go to bed. Nowadays, I leave Paris in the evening, have dinner with my marito (husband) and wake up to my beloved city. I love flying into Florence at night when the entire city glows a light orange. Sometimes I can spot a few monuments, but most of the time I just try to grab the entire view with my eyes.

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I would never say that Iím living a double life, but at times it does feel that way. When Iím home in Florence, Paris seems so far away and when Iím in Paris, Florence does. My running has allowed me to not feel as uprooted as I did in the beginning when I would hop between the two cities. I definitely have two different lives depending on whether Iím in Paris or Florence.

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It is exciting to change countries and languages as Iím doing now: two weeks home in Florence and two weeks in Paris. But at times it can be exhausting too. After an entire year of going back and forth, I have become used to my life straddled between two countries. I am also discovering great benefits with each trip; great gifts that come with not being completely settled in any one place. One of the greatest gifts is that Iím able to appreciate the changes occuring all around me, mostly in regards to the weather and the environment.

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On my run along the Arno this morning, I almost had to stop right before the Ponte Santa Trinita. A pang of sadness washed over me. In that moment, I came to the realization that I would be taking off again in only a few hours. I just returned to Florence late Friday night, spent a wonderful day taking in my beloved city, visiting with my family, and having dinner with friends.

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After working in Paris at the beginning of February and going on vacation at the end of February, I spent only six days in Florence last month. I enjoyed my time away, but I am so happy to be back in Florence. The first thing I did when I arrived was take in a deep breath. I missed the smell of the city most of all. I could always see pictures of the city, imagine myself walking the streets, but I couldnít reproduce its smell. I canít describe it exactly because it is a mix of odors that is certainly unique to Florence.

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In Paris, I enjoy going to a local cafť to have breakfast. I sit alone at a table, sipping on a cafť crÍme and eating either a croissant or a baguette with butter and jam. After I settle in, the first thing I do is pull out a notebook and pen. I enjoy writing in public places because I donít get distracted, yet still take short breaks to watch people walk by. My biggest distraction is my computer. Besides work I can do, projects I can tend to, thereís also the Internet where I can surf for hours.

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When I am in Paris, Florence feels so far away. My last images of Florence in my head were from when the plane took off. The city was on my left out the window appearing in a hazy fog where I could only make out the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, and a few other buildings as well as the Arno snaking through the city. Then, the plane veered north and the city disappeared. For some reason, it is that memory of my beloved city that I take with me to Paris. Not the millions of other images Iíve seen in the last two weeks I was in Florence.

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With temperatures hovering around 0įC, this morning I headed out for a run along the Arno. Last night it snowed in Florence. Tiny snowflakes aimlessly darted around the sky, lightly touched the ground, and disappeared. At times, the city looked like it was in a snow globe. I tried to take a few pictures, but the snow looked more like rain falling.

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For the second time this week, I walked to Ponte alle Grazie where I looked at the Ponte Vecchio before taking off on my morning run. After crossing the bridge, I headed away from the city toward Ponte San NiccolÚ. I first went past Piazza Demidoff where the large monument is hiding behind scaffolding. I kept close to the low wall on the left to give the speeding bikes more room to pass me.

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Living in Florence :: Evening strolls

I missed my first sunset on Saturday, so Sunday evening when I saw the sky darken I ran outside with my macchina fotografica (camera). I headed toward the sun that was quickly disappearing. I wasnít sure where I wanted to stop to take some photos, but snapped a few along the way. Iím sure Iíve taken multiple photos of the same sights, but each time they seem different to me. At different times of the day and in different lighting, the city is transformed.

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This morning when I woke up, I was happy to look out the window to see bright blue skies, the jade-colored Arno, the yellow, white, and orange buildings across the river, the leafy trees, and the patches of green grass on the hillside. I returned from Paris last night where Iíd been for two weeks. In the winter, Paris can be a little bleak. The contrast of colors between the two cities is great.

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Living in Florence :: Power of the Arno

Florence is not only one of my great loves, but it is also a good friend. Early this evening, I went to Ponte Santa Trinita with the four statues on each corner and stared into the Arno facing the Ponte Vecchio. I saw a piece of wood floating on the surface slowly making its way toward me. I imagined putting all my concerns, worries, and incessant thoughts on top of it. I watched it steadily pass under the bridge and down the river to the West. I crossed the bridge and watched that piece of wood some more. Letting go is always difficult, and sometimes I enjoy watching it slowly get smaller instead of just disappearing.

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In Italy today, we celebrate Epifania (Epiphany). Itís the last holiday in a string of major holidays (Christmas and New Yearís) until Easter. After a cool day yesterday with rain most of the afternoon, this morning is cloudy, but sunny. For the second morning in a row, the sun has lit up the sky with oranges, pinks, and yellows that I normally only see at sunset. The city is quiet with a few people bundled up strolling around town. Almost all the shops are closed this morning even though the big after-Christmas saldi (sales) started yesterday.

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