by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: First day of the year

Today I was excited to go for a walk up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. The sun was out and the skies were clear. The minute I walked out of our apartment, I was surrounded by people. The lungarno was filled with people strolling toward the centro (downtown center area): Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo. I walked in the opposite direction toward Ponte San NiccolÚ to head up the viale (large avenue).

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On Monday, my friend Simone asked me to assist him with a cooking class at his place because heís not comfortable speaking English. He used to teach at a cooking school in Florence, but since he opened up his new restaurant Artemide in Molino del Piano, he hasnít been teaching as much. Simoneís brother has joined him because he is busy working at the restaurant and tending his orto (vegetable garden).

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On Friday, Florence was breathtaking with snow falling for eight continuous hours. I was mesmerized by the steady flow of flakes floating down from the sky. I sat in a restaurant for lunch with a friend and we watched the streets, sidewalks, and cement benches in the piazza disappear under white mounds of snow. With the city glowing at night from the reflection of the street lights on the snow, there was a sort of excitement that hung in the air.

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Living in Florence :: The day after

This morning I couldnít wait to get outside to take photos of the snow. It was almost difficult for me to sleep with the glow from the snow on the ground reflecting the street lights into our apartment. I woke up and ran outside this morning with the joy and excitement of a child on Christmas morning wanting to open presents.

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Living in Florence :: Una bellezza unica

With temperatures below zero this morning, I was happy to stay in to keep warm. Yesterday was too cold for me already. At around noon, the snow theyíve been predicting all week began falling. At first, it was light and the sky was filled with floating snowflakes. It was exciting to see the streets and sidewalks turn white. I took a few pictures from the window of our apartment, but I was looking forward to going outside.

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It looked warmer outside with the clear blue skies and sun shining down on the river this morning when I peeked out the window. I knew the temperatures were low (2įC/35įF), and they have been for some time, but I didnít realize how cold it really was until I opened the front door to our building.

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Besides my work schedule, the holiday season approaching, and my personal projects, Iíve had little time to enjoy my city lately. Every morning when I woke up, Iíd say, ďTomorrow Iíl go for a stroll around town, bring my camera, and enjoy the city.Ē But that day with a few extra hours in it never arrived. By the end of the week, I was a little sad sad especially since for a couple of days I didnít even walk out of my apartment. On most days, I often stare out the window to look out at what is going on outside: I admire the Arno and watch cars go in one direction while people walk in the other.

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Living in Florence :: Albero di Natale davanti al Duomo

Before meeting up with Alessandro for lunch, I darted through Piazza della Signoria through the crowds of people, some taking in the view of the Palazzo Vecchio and others snapping pictures in front of it. I rushed down via Calzaiuoli avoiding the people entering and exiting the shops with large bags. At via del Corso, I bumped into a few friends and chatted for a little bit.

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Living in Florence :: Christmas is in the air

Without Thanksgiving in Florence, I have other cues that Christmas is coming. Besides being the beginning of December, the city is already alit with lights strung up between buildings on many of the streets. For a few days, they were up, but not all were turned on until recently. The one thing that always signals the coming of Christmas is the Mercato tedesco di Natale (German Christmas market) in Piazza Santa Croce, which opened up yesterday.

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Even though Thanksgiving isnít celebrated in Italy, I still paused and gave thanks today. I didnít have a special dinner to go to, I didnít see any family members, and I didnít have the day off. But Thanksgiving, I realized, isnít about all of that: it is about being thankful. And I am.

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Living in Florence :: Taking photos in the rain

This morning, I met up with Kristin, a professional photographer from the States. She came to Florence for a few weeks to let herself get inspired and take photos of the city and food. We had met up once before for a caffŤ, and decided to meet again to take photos together. When we first saw each other today, the sky had cleared up a little and we thought it had stopped raining. Unfortunately, it rained off and on all day.

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I was happy that not a drop of rain fell today. I stayed home all day and couldn't wait until I went outside at 5pm when the sun was setting. I immediately walked through the piazza to reach the Arno. I was excited to see the colors of the city. Before I reached the red brick wall, I looked up at San Miniato. It was gently illuminated and glowed in the clear blue sky, which was getting darker by the minute.

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Today I celebrate six years of living in Florence and writing my blog. For the last couple of months, I have thought about this day and what it means to me. Not just a marker for the time passed in Florence, but also a reminder of how my life in Florence and my blog have both been great experiences for me. Six years ago when I returned to Florence, I had no idea where my journey would lead me. I started out my new life in Florence the way I did my blog: I promised myself to keep my mind open, to have new experiences, to not fall back on stereotypes, and to not judge others.

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Living in Florence :: David in front of the Duomo

Yesterday the city kicked off Florens 2010, one week of cultural events with Florence as the centerpiece. I was sorry to have missed the placing of the replica of David in front of the Duomo with a gru (crane) yesterday. I saw a photo of it suspended in air and thought how amazing that sight would have been. Instead, I waited until this morning after they laid real grass in Piazza di Giovanni around the Battistero before making my way to the Duomo.

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After four days of rainy days, the sun is finally out this morning. A few dark grey clouds scattered in the sky, but the sun is shining where it can. For the past few days, the sun has only peeked out a few times just to remind us that it is just behind the large blanket of clouds. The sky looked as if it turned color because the outlines of the clouds was virtually invisible.

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