by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Nuova macchina fotografica

Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) came in the form of my friend Amy who took a plane from the US to lug my new macchina fotografica (camera) to me. I ordered it over the Internet and had it sent to my friend's office. She was kind enough to bring me my new toy, which I couldn't wait to use. After going to her house, I ran home to recharge the batteries, and set it up.

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Earlier this afternoon I was walking around town to fare acquisti (shopping) and the shops were filled with scores of people. I walked up to the door of Universo Sport next to the Duomo to get one last gift, but when I saw the line of people waiting at the cassa (register), I didn't even enter the shop. To get home, I walked briskly down via Calzaiuoli where I had to zig-zag my way to get to the other end near Piazza della Signoria.

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I just posted an article on my website Florence from the Heart about my favorite piazza: Piazza di Santa Croce. I had gone to the piazza many times over the last few months to take pictures and capture my feelings about it. I think that everyone has a favorite piazza in Florence and even though there are a few others I admire and enjoy, Piazza di Santa Croce seems to me to be the most fascinating of all for me. I especially love the mix of the permanent with the temporary. The residents with the tourists. And the palazzi (buildings) and basilica (church) and the makeshift stands that come and go in the piazza all year round.

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Living in Florence :: Once the shops close

For the last Saturday evening before Natale (Christmas), I would normally avoid the busy streets in centro (in the downtown area). Every day this entire week when I found myself in centro, the streets have been packed with people. These past few weeks, I have enjoyed admiring the festive streets: Christmas trees lined up in large square planters in the middle of via Calzaiuoli and lights strung up high above a few of the side streets. I would normally stay home on such a busy evening, but when a girlfriend of mine invited me out for a drink at Rivoire, I didn't hesitate for one moment.

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As I put the key into the door of our apartment building yesterday, I heard someone call out, "Gallo Melinda." When I turned around, I saw my postina (postwoman) on her motorino coming up behind me. "Ho un pacco per te. Devi pagare qualcosa per, I have a package for you. You have to pay something though," she said. She flashed me a piece of paper with my name and the amount due. It seemed high until I saw the breakdown of the expenses for the dogana (customs) and the additional 20% IVA (tax) on the amount declared on the pacco (package).

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After having filed my request for cittadinanza italiana (Italian citizenship) because of my nonni last year, I've been trying not to think too much about it, and just hoping that it'll magically arrive sooner rather than later. I was told the wait would be anywhere from a year and a half to three years. This week, however, I decided to pass by the Prefettura (Prefecture) where I filed for my cittadinanza italiana to inquire about its status. I was told that I could call Rome directly, but without my numero della pratica (file number), they couldn't give me any information over the phone. My suocero (father-in-law) has a friend who works at the Prefettura who said that I should go in myself to check up on my pratica (file) and get the numero della pratica.

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A few weeks ago, I participated in the Notes to Heaven event in piazza Santo Spirito. The film student who organized the event for her first film with the same name asked to interview me along with a few other people to talk about losing a loved one. This evening, they showed the resulting film at the Odeon theatre for the Florence International Film Festival organized by the Florence Film School.

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Living in Florence :: L'Arno  gonfio

This morning when I opened the persiane (shutters) of the windows that face the Arno, I saw that it was gonfio (full). The sometimes slow-moving Arno was flowing steadily and quickly with muddy water. It was beautiful to hear the water rushing by. I kept my eyes glued on the mesmerizing Arno and watched the odd tree trunk floating by as well. Last Friday they opened up one of the dighe (dams) and the water seemed quite high. I took pictures, but at night it was difficult to make out how gonfio the Arno was.

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Living in Florence :: Christmas is approaching

A few of the streets in Florence have lights strung up between the buildings and many shops have already put in Christmas decorations in their vetrine (shop winows), but nothing announces the coming of Christmas for me like the annual Mercato di Natale (Christmas Market) in Piazza Santa Croce. Every year the entire piazza is filled with bancarelle (stands) that sell Christmas gifts, food, and even clothing.

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Living in Florence :: Maratona di Firenze at a distance

At around 7 this morning while the sun was rising, I looked out our apartment windows where numerous podisti (runners) were heading toward Piazzale Michelangiolo for the beginning of the Maratona di Firenze. The sun was revealing a dark, patchy sky with very few rays of sunshine beaming through. Some of the podisti were jogging while others were walking toward the Ponte alle Grazie. Many of the podisti were already sporting plastic impermeabili (rain jackets) because rain was imminent.

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Living in Florence :: Sending off a note to Heaven from Piazza Santo Spirito

I was told about this special event, Notes to Heaven, a few weeks ago through the Florence Film School. Francesca Casilli is a film student who is making a film on people who have lost a loved one. There was something about the idea that filled me with much joy even though I felt it was also a bit scary. The idea is that each participant write a note to a loved one, attach it to a red palloncino (balloon), and send it off to Heaven from Piazza Santo Spirito. To bring something so private out in the public enticed me quite a bit because I feel as if I have been grieving for so many years all alone.

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I've been told that I'm quite American because I wash my hair every day. My parucchiere (hair dresser), Simone, tells me over and over again how it's not good for my hair, but I can't help it. It's one of those habits I can't seem to break. I talked with my Italian amiche (girlfriends) and found out that they go regularly to the parucchiere to farsi la piega (get their hair styled), so today I thought I'd indulge myself by going to the parucchiere just to farmi la piega (get my hair styled).

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This morning I rode my bici (bike) from our apartment to viale dei Mille where I had an appointment. I haven't ridden my bici in weeks because of the rain and the cold weather, but today I figured I'd take it instead of walking. Viale dei Mille is outside of the mura of the city and I seem to lose my bearings quite quickly when I go outside of the centro storico (city center).

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This entire week I've been wondering what I will write today. I have been living in Florence, and blogging about it, since this day for the past four years. Each day this week, I have been looking out onto the Arno, wondering about what makes me love living here. While I passed by churches and monuments in the streets this week, I asked myself what I appreciate about my beloved city. The beauty and magic of the city are obvious, but what is it that makes me feel that I have found a home here?

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This morning when I went into the banca (bank) to deposit some cash, the cassiera (teller) informed me that one of my banconote di 20 euro (20 Euro bills) was falsa (counterfeit). "Come falsa? What do you mean counterfeit?" I asked the cassiera. I was a little embarrassed when a few of the people in the banca turned around after she told me the news. She held up the banconota falsa along with a real one for me to compare, and pointed out that it was really obvious just by looking at them.

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