by Melinda Gallo

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. Itís 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 Iíd 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 itís 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. Itís almost as if I have become a collage where each place Iíve lived in has added something, offering more depth, color, and meaning.

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I finally found the time yesterday to visit the Musťe Rodin. Every apartment Iíve rented in Paris hasnít been far from my favorite museum, but I never had time to go. After my morning run and breakfast at a local cafť, I walked down rue de Varenne past the HŰtel de Matignon to the museum. With a long line in front of the museum, I realized that I wasnít the only one who thought it was a perfect morning to visit the Musťe Rodin with the sun shining and cool breeze.

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Yesterday evening after work, I got on the mťtro 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 mťtro 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 hadnít gone up there in a couple of weeks ago because Iíve been running more than taking long walks. Because I havenít run in salita (incline) in a long time, I wasnít 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 wasnít sure I was going to run up there.

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Only twenty-four hours later, I did almost the same run. I realized shortly after leaving our apartment that Iíll need to leave earlier in the morning to have the same experience as yesterday when the city felt almost all mine. There was enough traffic around me to make me change my route as well, which ended up being another pleasant reward.

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Itís Easter morning and the streets are fairly quiet: not many cars and even fewer motorini (scooters) are out. Instead of heading east away from the city on my morning run, I decided to head west. Not only was the scenery different, but my run had a different feel to it too. Time also went by quickly.

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Living in Florence :: A crowded Easter Day in Florence

I waited all week to go out and take a few photos of my beloved city. The entire week has mostly been sunny, and I assumed that the good weather would continue. Unfortunately, yesterday was cloudy and grey, and this morning it was raining. This morning, I walked around town through the crowded piazze and strade (streets). I didnít want to go to the Duomo for Florenceís famous scoppio del carro (explosion of the cart) because Iíve already seen it a few times, and Iím not fond of the crowds. I thought I could take some photos before the strade filled up, but unfortunately I didnít get out of the house in time.

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My recent trips to Paris have enabled me to view my beloved city a little differently. The last time I went up to Piazzale Michelangiolo, I realized that I can hold the entire city in my view. Itís unlike Paris where itís hard to get a complete view of the city since itís so much larger. But, I realize that not only is the city easy to hold in my sight, but also in my heart as well. It's as if I can embrace it completely.

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