by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Solstizio d'estate

For the solstizio d’estate (summer solstice), I took a walk around centro (downtown) to enjoy the longest day of the year. At 7pm, the sun was still quite high in the sky, and was setting slowly. The streets were busy even though the shops were closing. Many people were sitting on the terrazze (terraces) of the bars and restaurants in Piazza della Signoria. This evening was the perfect one to enjoy the warm air and brilliant sun.

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This morning, I wasn’t in the mood to go for a run. Instead, I went for a walk up viale Michelangiolo to my favorite piazzale (large piazza). I haven’t been up there in a while and missed the view of my beloved city. Before taking off, I grabbed my iPhone because I thought I’d take a few candid shots of the path I go up. I didn’t want to bring my macchina fotografica (camera) because I didn't want to be weighed down by it.

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This years is certainly not wanting me to stand still. With my work taking me to Paris two weeks a month and my own writing projects shifting, now we might also be moving apartments. We’ve been in our apartment for the last four years and really had no need to move until now. The piazza below our place (which is usually a parking lot) began to be transformed this morning at 7am. Instead of a handful of cars passing through, the piazza will become a major street for those coming from the lungarno or via dei Leoni/via Proncosolo.

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On my first full day back to Florence yesterday, I went to the Prefettura (Prefecture) for an appointment regarding my Italian citizenship. In the letter that I received last month, they asked me to bring a few documents as well as my American passport, carta d’identità (identity card), and permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). Before taking off for the States last month, I went to the comune (city hall) to obtain the ones requested.

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I returned from the US this afternoon and was happy to be back in my beloved city. While my plane was landing in Florence, I looked out the window of the airplane and felt my heart melt when I saw the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio in the distance. I saw the glistening water in the Arno snake through the city. It’s not just the beauty of the city that I love, but the energy the city consistently emits. I feel its steady flow of love and courage.

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After I returned from Paris on Wednesday, we left for Copenhagen on Friday. We returned to Florence Monday night and took off for California on Thursday morning. At the end of eight days, I had taken seven flights, stopped off in seven countries, and only spent four days in Florence. I was fortunate to have run in the morning because it was the only time I had to enjoy my beloved city. During the days I had in Florence, I mostly had to work and, in my free time, run errands.

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Living in Florence :: A quick trip to Copenhagen

The last thing I thought I would be doing two days after my return to Florence after an 18-day stay in Paris was take off again. My marito (husband) had planned a trip to Copenhagen for us at the beginning of the year because he was going to run in the Copenhagen maratona (marathon). I was excited when he made the reservations, but then was a little less enthusiastic when I realized how little time I’d be spending in Florence.

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I never met my Italian nonni (grandparents), but thanks to them I was informed today that I was granted Italian citizenship. I had an inkling of this good news when I received a lettera raccomandata (certified letter) while I was in Paris last week. The possibility that I would get my Italian citizenship prompted my previous post about culture. I wondered if I would somehow be different or feel changed, but I realized that I was already changed because I have been living overseas for many years.

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I used to think that I wanted to adopt another culture because I admired it so much. Why not become French, English, or Italian? In reality, however, I think it’s almost impossible to completely lose my own culture to fully immerse myself in another one. I certainly consider myself American, but with touches of other cultures. It’s almost as if I have become a collage where each place I’ve lived in has added something, offering more depth, color, and meaning.

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I finally found the time yesterday to visit the Musée Rodin. Every apartment I’ve rented in Paris hasn’t been far from my favorite museum, but I never had time to go. After my morning run and breakfast at a local café, I walked down rue de Varenne past the Hôtel de Matignon to the museum. With a long line in front of the museum, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a perfect morning to visit the Musée Rodin with the sun shining and cool breeze.

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Yesterday evening after work, I got on the métro during rush hour and was unable to find a seat. Instead of sitting down to read my book as I usually do, I was forced to stand in a crowd of people near the back. The moment the doors of the métro closed and we pulled out of the station, I began studying the people around me. As my eyes bounced from person to person, I was suddenly struck by how beautiful everyone was. I felt as if my heart felt just burst open and I was able to finally see the beauty in the people around me. Not in a subjective way, but in a way that made me realize that our uniqueness is what makes us each beautiful.

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To get to know my neighborhood better, I walked around on Sunday afternoon after I arrived. Even though everything was closed, I still enjoyed getting to know what was near where I am staying. I was tired after my long walk around town, but on Monday morning I was happy that I stayed out so much because it was raining when I woke up for my first day of work. The other way I enjoy getting to know my area is by running early in the morning.

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I realized that on this last trip to Paris, I switched languages the minute I stepped foot on the plane. When the stewardess greeted me in French, suddenly my Italian was set aside. Even though I was still in Florence, I began speaking French. I picked up the in-flight magazine and read the articles in French, not English. When the stewardess came by to ask me what I wanted to drink, I told her in French.

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I always feel sad the day I leave Florence. I was home for three weeks and in that time I almost forgot all about Paris. I could no longer visualize the streets, the monuments, the bridges, and the Seine. I was happy that during my stay in my beloved city, I got back into running after a long hiatus. Not only did I begin to feel grounded again, but it also gave me time to absorb the beauty of my beloved city--not just visually, but also emotionally.

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When I woke up this morning I visualized myself at the top of Piazzale Michelangiolo looking down at the city. I hadn’t gone up there in a couple of weeks ago because I’ve been running more than taking long walks. Because I haven’t run in salita (incline) in a long time, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I put the idea of seeing the city from the piazzale when I was running across Ponte alle Grazie, but wasn’t sure I was going to run up there.

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