by Melinda Gallo

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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Living in Florence :: A stroll along the Arno

With the sun setting in the clear sky this evening, I decided to walk along the Arno from Ponte Santa Trinita toward Ponte alle Grazie. I hadnít strolled along the Arno since I returned to Florence a few days ago. I have only walked through town to buy fruits and vegetables at the ortolano (green grocer) behind via Calzaiuoli because the one close to our apartment is closed. I havenít had that much free time to delight in my beloved city.

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When I arrived back in Florence on Monday night, a large orange moon hung in the sky. As we drove from the airport to the city, I couldnít keep my eyes off of it. Even though I enjoyed my time in Paris these last two weeks, I was happy to be back in my beloved city. The best part of my trip was that a girlfriend came for a few days and then my marito (husband) and another couple came at the end of my trip. I was happy to do a few tourist things with them because normally I do them alone when I have some free time. Itís wonderful to enjoy a city, but to share it is a joy.

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