by Melinda Gallo

One thing I love about Florence is the change of seasons. Being originally from California where the change is usually warm or cool with a month of rain, I never knew that the change of seasons could be so lovely. I had read about the different seasons, saw pictures of them, but never really experienced them growing up. Out of all the seasons, my two favorite ones are the more active ones: spring and fall. There is something magical about watching nature either expand or contract.

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One of the things I love most about living in a different country is picking up new words and expressions. I find each language rich with history and personality. After living in Florence for almost nine years now, I am happy to continue learning new things. Itís a wonderful feeling to pick up something new. Even in English, Iím still enriching my vocabulary so it makes sense that in Italian I would do the same.

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On Sunday, my marito (husband) surprised me with a trip to a resort spa with terme (thermal baths) for our wedding anniversary. I have been wanting to go for a long time, so I was very excited when he told me that we were going and spending two nights there. A few years ago, I went to Montecatini with a couple of girlfriends to spend a day at the terme, but we didnít spend the night. I have been dreaming about going to a spa resort with terme for a long time. After all the traveling Iíve been doing lately, I was eager to take a break without having to fly anywhere. And, to me, Monsummano Terme fit the bill perfectly.

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Even though I ran a lot when I was in the States, the one thing I truly missed was walking. I love to walk around Florence to run errands, visit friends, and take in the sights. I enjoy walking in the morning instead of running at times especially to my favorite place: Piazzale Michelangiolo.

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While I write this post, I am on an airplane to Paris from Boston and by the time I post it, Iíll be in the CDG airport. I left for a business trip in the US at the end of September. During my flight from Florence to Paris, the sun was a bright red while it was setting to the West. I spent the night at an airport hotel and woke up early for a flight to San Francisco. I went to my French companyís office in San Jose for a week in preparation for a conference we were having in Boston. I was asked to go a few months ago and was very excited. My company has been holding these conferences for many years, and I used to attend them as a web/database developer. The last time was four years ago in Memphis.

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I realized this morning during my run that when Iím in Florence, I change my route quite often. I decide before I walk out the door which way I will go based on many factors: day of the week, time of day, weather, and my mood. I try to avoid traffic, but when I canít do that, I have a standard route that I run. Yesterday I ran that route, which is to go to Ponte da Verazzano and back. Itís one of my favorite routes because there arenít many people on the sidewalk; however, the only problem is that there are a lot of cars at Ponte San NiccolÚ.

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Thereís nothing like having a document to prove my Italian citizenship. Even though I was granted Italian citizenship back in March and was only notified in June, it hadnít really sunk in. When I took my giuramento (oath) to become an official Italian citizen yesterday, I felt I had become an Italian citizen, but I kept thinking that something was missing. I couldnít wait to get my carta díidentitŗ (identity card) today because it would be the only document that would state Iím Italian. I wanted something tangible.

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This morning I took my giuramento (oath) in Palazzo Vecchio and became an official Italian citizen. After playing phone tag for a few weeks with the woman at the comune (city hall), we finally set the date for me to take my giuramento today. I was so happy when my suocera (mother-in-law) asked me if she could accompany me. I didnít ask anyone to come with me, but I was happy my suocera was the person who was there when I became Italian.

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This morning, I couldnít wait to visit Palazzo Pitti. I havenít been in a long time and I just felt a great desire to go today. When I returned from Paris last weekend, I had two big events to attend: the George Michael concert in Piazza Santa Croce and the Fiorentina soccer match at Franchi Stadium. Besides meeting up with friends and family, I didnít have much time to soak up my beloved city except in the morning during my runs and walks.

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I realized this morning when I went for a walk up to Piazzale Michelangiolo how different my life is when Iím in Florence and when Iím in Paris. When I was in Paris, I went running every day and only took one day off. Now that Iím back in Florence, I went running the first day, took a day off and went for a walk two days in a row. I like how in Florence I have more time to enjoy the day and take it a little slower.

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Thereís a big piece of me that stays in Florence when I leave. It wasnít until I got on the plane to go to Paris that I realized that my writerís voice seemed to get quieter as I flew away from Florence. I found it odd how each time Iím in Paris, my desire to write becomes weaker. At first, I thought it was because when I go to Paris I focus on my job and write a lot, but the day before I returned to Florence, that little voice came back to me.

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On the day before I leave for Paris, I strolled down my beloved cityís streets in silence. I wanted to kiss every stone, building, monument, and church. All I could see was beauty. I wanted to capture every piece of my beloved city and tuck them in my pocket to take with me. Even though I enjoy my time in Paris, I find it painful to leave Florence each time. My heart breaks a little when I know that I have to be away from my life in my beloved city with my husband and friends.

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After my run this morning, I walked over Ponte alle Grazie where I saw two women taking photos of the Ponte Vecchio. I smiled as I passed them: I was happy that they were appreciating my beloved cityís beauty. I too looked out at the Ponte Vecchio and thought how fortunate I am to be able to admire it every day. Besides feeling in my own element here, I am fortunate to live in a place I love and appreciate so much.

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After having lunch with friends visiting Florence yesterday, I decided to visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo. I hadnít visited the basilica in a long time and felt the desire to do so because we had lunch only a block away. Once I entered the basilica, I slowly walked past the large frescoes and bronze pulpits. I didnít remember the basilica being so grand, and was so happy to have decided on visiting it.

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Today when I walked down a narrow, and less frequented, street near our apartment to go to the mercato (market), my mind began to wander. It happens a lot to me when I am walking alone. I become mesmerized by the rhythm of my footsteps, the stone streets, and the buildings around me. This morning, I found myself thinking about how beautiful Florence is even though itís not perfectly clean or orderly. I would love to see my beloved city be cleaner, but I can easily look past its apparent blemishes to perceive its true and natural beauty.

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