by Melinda Gallo

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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Only twenty-four hours later, I did almost the same run. I realized shortly after leaving our apartment that I’ll 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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It’s 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 didn’t want to go to the Duomo for Florence’s famous scoppio del carro (explosion of the cart) because I’ve already seen it a few times, and I’m not fond of the crowds. I thought I could take some photos before the strade filled up, but unfortunately I didn’t 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. It’s unlike Paris where it’s hard to get a complete view of the city since it’s 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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The reason I initially came to Florence in 1997 was to find my inspiration to write. At the time, I thought if I extracted myself from my “normal” life, gave up my day job, and moved to an enchanting city, I would certainly be inspired to write. Initially, it worked. The change of culture, language, lifestyle, and surroundings all inspired me. After living here for many years and still feeling the effect of my beloved city on me, I realize that my inspiration is more tied to something completely different: running.

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My grandmother used to often tell me, “The early bird gets the worm.” I always thought it was her way of getting me up early instead of sleeping in. But today, I realized how true that expression really is, and how the best moments occur when you wake up early for them. I was out the door by 7:45am to go for my morning run, which isn’t that early, but it was early enough to reap the benefits. I was startled by how cool the air was since the sun had been up before I was. I thought it had at least an hour or so to warm up the air a little, but that wasn’t the case.

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With the tourist season coming into full swing, I have not been crossing the Ponte Vecchio. I can tell by the large groups of students and tourists drifting through the city streets that the season has just begun. Generally, Ponte Vecchio is my gauge to know how busy the city is. I looked at it a few times from along the lungarno and could see how crowded it was.

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This morning I couldn’t wait to go for a walk up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. After arriving last night, I was ready to get up to the piazzale to see my city in its entirety. Even though Saturday was warm and sunny, it was foggy and cool Sunday morning. I dashed out of our apartment and walked briskly across Ponte alle Grazie and along the Arno up to the Viale Michelangiolo.

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Living in Florence :: Last afternoon in Paris

I couldn’t wait to enjoy my last few hours in Paris before heading back to Florence. It was a perfect spring day with the sun warming up the cool air. I walked down the rue de Grenelle, where I was staying, to the Invalides. Boys were playing soccer on the grass and tourists were navigating the streets with their maps opened as they walked along the large sidewalks of the esplanade. I cut through the soccer game along the stone walkway that cuts the grass diagonally to get to the métro station. Instead of taking a métro, I hopped on the RER to Saint Michel. I wanted to see the Notre Dame and the Seine before taking off. The first thing I saw in Paris when I arrived two weeks ago was the Notre Dame, and I thought it’d be good to end my trip with it as well.

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Spring has finally arrived in Paris today. My marito (husband) told me that spring arrived last week in Florence. I was jealous when he said the sun was shining brightly because when I looked out the windows, the skies here in Paris were grey. The temperatures finally rose enough today to reach the mid 70’s (20’s in Celsius) that we opened the windows in our office for the first time.

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