by Melinda Gallo

This morning when I went for my run, the fog was so thick that only half of the Eiffel Tower was visible. Instead of arriving at 7am like I do on a workday, I arrived two hours later. Because it was a holiday in France, I had the whole day to myself, and I was certainly going to enjoy it. When I exited the apartment building, the sky wasnít its usual dark blue, but rather a light grey.

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This morning I walked out of the apartment to the Champ de Mars, which is a large public green area in front of the Eiffel Tower. On every trip to Paris, I try to pick apartments near it so I can run in the morning before going to work. Itís also very convenient for me for work too.

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I only come to Paris once a month for a couple of weeks, but I do love taking the mťtro. All my colleagues think Iím nuts because no one likes the mťtro: itís smelly, crowded, and dirty. I donít particularly appreciate those aspects either, but I do like the ability to travel long distances quickly, to have some quiet time to read without being interrupted, and to experience life working in Paris.

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With the Maratona di Firenze only a few weeks away, more and more people are out running. Iím not participating in the marathon, but I have been wanting to increase my distance and run fewer times a week. Last week, I ran up to the Piazzale Michelangiolo and back. It was about 10k, but this morning I wanted to not only go further, but also change my route again.

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Yesterday was Festa di Ognissanti (All Saintsí Day), but I didnít go to the chiesa (church) as I had initially planned to say a brief prayer for my parents. On this day, many people visit the cimitero (cemetery) to pay tribute to those who have passed. Since my parents arenít in a local cimitero, I wanted to go to San Remigio, which is the chiesa where I ordered a messa (mass) for my parents a couple of years ago. By the time I got out of the house yesterday, the chiesa was already closed for lunch. Later in the afternoon, I got busy and didnít feel like going back.

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Ever since I returned from the US a few weeks ago, Iíve been wanting to go to the questura (police station) to get my Italian passport. When I took my giuramento (oath) for my Italian citizenship, the man told me that once I got a letter from them that everything has been transcribed, I could go to the questura and get my passport. I have learned than to take anyoneís word for anything and checked on-line what the procedure is to get a passport. When I viewed the website of the Florence questura, it gave clear instructions and a downloadable form to fill out.

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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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