by Melinda Gallo

A friend of ours, Filippo, picked us up at the airport Tuesday afternoon. I was surprised how the much lower the temperature was than when we left a week ago. I slumped in the backseat of the car and looked out the window at the streets leading to centro (the city center). I finally perked up when we drove down via dei Cerretani toward the Duomo. When I first arrived in Florence in 1997, I remember looking up at the Duomo from the taxi and being amazed at how stunning it was. And when I we drove past it yesterday, I smiled just as I did that first time.

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Living in Florence :: Final hours in South Beach

For our last day in South Beach, we decided to walk along the beach and take in as much as we could before heading to the airport. We woke up early and headed straight for the beach after breakfast. The weather was beautiful and there were only a few clouds in the sky. We walked down Ocean Drive, which we hadn't done much of because we kept going to Lincoln Road. At every restaurant, young women would try to hand us flyers and tell us of their specials. Initially I felt impelled to thank them and keep walking, but after it happened about five or six times, I just walked by and didn't react at all.

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Living in Florence :: Holocaust Memorial

For our last full day in South Beach, we decided to walk around, do some last minute shopping, and visit the Holocaust Memorial. For the first time since we've been here, it was a hot and sunny day with no rain in sight. We walked up to Lincoln Road and then turned onto Meridian to get to the memorial. We tried to walk in the shade, but on the last two blocks to the memorial there weren't any trees.

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Living in Florence :: A quick day trip to Key West

At 7am, the bus arrived to pick us up. We weren't certain we wanted to go to Key West because our trip was so short, but in the end we figured it'd be a fun excursion. We had initially thought of staying in Key West for a couple of days, but the thought of changing hotels twice seemed crazy for a week-long trip to the US. As usual, the sky was a little cloudy, but still sunny outside. It wasn't until we were almost there that it began to rain. It rained so bad that Alessandro took pictures outside the front window of the bus where all he could see was white.

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Living in Florence :: Spending time on the beach

After our walking around and visiting a few places, we finally decided to go to the beach this morning. I love being in the water and walking along the beach, but I'm not as fond of laying out in the sun. One of the guys at our hotel lent us an umbrella so we didn't have to pay to rent one. We picked an empty spot on the beach, planted the umbrella, and headed for the water.

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Living in Florence :: Our visit to the Florida everglades

When researching about what to do in Miami Beach, I saw that we could visit the Florida everglades. The hotel had a brochure on it and organized everything for us. We were picked up in front of the hotel at 8 am. The bus took us around to a couple of other hotels to pick up some more people. We arrived at the Florida everglades a couple of hours later and were quickly ushered to an airboat. We sprayed ourselves with mosquito-repellent after the tour guide warned us of mosquitoes.

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Living in Florence :: Going shopping in a mall

We woke up early before the sun streamed into our hotel window. I jumped up to take a photo of the sun rising, but I was a little late even though I did catch the sun coming up behind the billowy clouds above the ocean. I was happy to finally catch my first sunrise over the ocean. I couldn't wait to get the day started, so we went for a run along the beach. At 7:30 am, it was already warm and humid outside, but we persevered and ran down the coast to the ports. Fortunately the clouds provided us with some shade, but not much.

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We arrived at the airport in Florence as the sun was just coming up. Alessandro's babbo (dad) drove us through the dark and quiet streets of Florence to the airport. I was surprised that so few people were at the airport on a Tuesday morning because the last time I came to the airport, I had to wait almost an hour to check in. It took us only a few minutes to check in our bag and proceed to the gate.

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I haven't been back to the US since I got married in October 2007. Alessandro and I decided last week to go there for a short vacation. After spending the entire month of August in Florence, we're finally taking our turn to get away. Staying here was almost like a vacation with fewer people around, quieter streets and less traffic, so now that more people are back now, we can finally take off.

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Last night's game was the first I've been to this month. A few weeks ago, we did go watch the Fiorentina play against PSG for a partita amichevole (friendly soccer match). The only place at the the stadio (stadium) that I truly love to watch and experience the partita (game) is in Curva Fiesole where we even bought abbonamenti (season tickets) this year.

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Things have been rather calm in Florence these past couple of weeks with shops being closed and friends away on vacation. Besides my friends coming back to Florence, my other highlight this week was that my ortolano (greengrocer) finally reopened today after being closed for three weeks. I couldn't wait to go buy fresh fruit and vegetables from him. While he's been closed, I've been going to the three other ortolani in the area plus the mercato (market), but I haven't been as satisfied with what I purchased. I have realized in these three weeks just how great the quality of the fruit and vegetables that my local ortolano sells me.

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If I could've planned for my computer to stop working on me, it would not have been this week. All the service centers in and around Florence are closed, and some were already closed last week as well. The closest one to me will be open next Monday, but most of the others will be closed until the end of the month. I panicked Monday morning when my computer didn't start up. Fortunately, I have an extra computer that Alessandro uses so I could at least get on the Internet to get information about all the shops nearby. I couldn't work because all of my files were on my now broken computer although I could find most of them on my backup drive, which fortunately I just updated a couple of weeks ago.

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Living in Florence :: Family lunch a day early

Last Sunday, my suoceri (in-laws) were out of town so we didn't have our family pranzo (lunch). I missed the ritual of it all: my suocero (father-in-law) coming to pick me up, our talk in the car, my suocera (mother-in-law) standing at the door to greet me, our pranzo together, and my pisolino (nap). Because tomorrow I'm going out with my suoceri for lunch to celebrate Ferragosto (mid-August holiday), we decided to have our family pranzo today. To start out my day, I decided to go for a walk up to to San Miniato al Monte for the past couple of days and finally dragged myself up the scale (stairs) to go have a quick visit.

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Over lunch my girlfriend asked me if I still learned new words in Italian. Without hesitation, I said, "Absolutely!" She was concerned because she said that even after being here for 5 years, she didn't feel as if she was as fluent in Italian as she expected. We have both separately lived in France for a handful of years and both felt that learning French was much easier. We both felt that after living in France, we were fluent and didn't learn as many words every day. It seemed the typical expressions and words were used over and over again, which is a little atypical of Italian.

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When I started my blog in November 2004, I certainly didn't know what to expect and never imagined that I would write a thousand blog entries. If it wasn't for a friend of mine who asked me to consider starting a blog about my new life in Florence, I never would've thought about blogging. With my blog, I've had the opportunity to write about everything that pertains to my life in Florence, and have tried to keep away from making quick judgements and handing out stereotypes any time something didn't go my way.

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