by Melinda Gallo

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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I am not the only one who lives abroad who has felt that my country has left me disappointed and embarrassed at times. I had feared that the Republicans would win the presidency again, and like many other expats would have turned in my American passport if that were the case even though I do love my country. I have always loved what my country stands for, but the direction we have been going in has been painful for us all. Living abroad has opened my eyes to see the world differently. I finally saw how other people viewed the US, and how things are looked at differently by non-Americans.

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Living in Florence :: Election Night at Saschall

At around half past eight last night, three of my girlfriends and I piled into a taxi as the rain was pouring outside. We were taken along the Lungarno to go to Saschall where the Election Night 2008, organized by the Tuscan American Association, was being held. When we arrived outside, we could already hear the music playing. We walked toward the entrance where there were two lines of carabinieri (military policemen) standing guard. We walked inside the building and were greeted by crowds of Americans and Italians.

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Living in Florence :: La porti un bacione a Firenze

After a rainy Halloween, the sun has reappeared to warm up the cool air for the festa di tutti i santi (All Saint's Day). Before I left our apartment this morning to do a few commissioni (errands), my friend Marco called to say, "Auguri! Best Wishes!" for the festa (holiday). He has a strong connection to Florence and would love to live here, but now resides in the north of Italy. Before he hung up, he said, "La porti un bacione a Firenze! Give Florence a big kiss for me!"

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Living in Florence :: Museo di Orsanmichele

On Monday, a woman I had just met mentioned that the museo (museum) above the Orsanmichele chiesa (church) would be open until the end of October for a mostra (exhibition) that was being held there. I hadn't heard of this museo, so I was intrigued to go. I had made plans with myself to visit the museo one morning this week, but as the days went by I had completely forgotten about it. At around noon while I was walking home from the Piazza Repubblica today, I took via di Lamberti past the chiesa. I saw a man standing outside of the palazzo (building) and I was immediately reminded about the museo. I walked up to him and asked him how long the museo would remain open. "Fino alle cinque oggi Until 5 pm today," he said. I decided to skip my commissioni (errands) and head inside for a visit.

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After a visit to my private specialist yesterday who handed me a ricetta medica (prescription) written on her notepad, I had to go to my medico di famiglia (family doctor) to get an actual ricetta medica today so that I can go through the public medical system. I prefer to see some specialists privately just because it's faster to see them, and I always get who I want. But, the only downside is that I have to always go back to my medico di famiglia to get a ricetta medica.

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Living in Florence :: Walk from Coverciano

Today I went on another passeggiata (walk) from Coverciano, which is the area near the stadio (stadium) to our apartment in centro (downtown). I walked the same route as I did last Sunday. This morning on via Paoli people were getting ready for a large outdoor mercato (market). The entire street was lined with banchi (stands) on both sides selling clothing, housewares, and food. Music was blaring from some of the banchi while people were browsing the tables even though the mercato wasn't officially open yet at 8 am.

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Living in Florence :: American treats at Mama's Bakery

Today, I finally had a chance to go to Mama's Bakery, which I read about in The Florentine more than a month ago. I haven't found a good American-style forno (bakery) in Florence, so I was eager to try out this new one. Even though I love living in Florence and enjoy all the local delicacies, I still have my cravings for American treats.

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I'm certain that it's only human to want to be noticed and acknowledged. I greet people in the street that I know, and people often greet me when they see me. Sometimes I stop off in shops where I know people and we either chat in their shop or we grab a coffee together so we can chat. One other way that people greet me, which I greatly appreciate, is through Alessandro.

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This morning I hitched a ride with Alessandro to go to one of my favorite pasticcerie (pastry shops) outside of the centro (downtown area), Pasticceria Stefania in via Marconi. Alessandro goes there every weekend morning before work and this morning I woke up at 7am just to have one of their sfoglia con crema (puff pastry with cream). I love how when we get there, they are still warm from coming out of the oven. Normally, Alessandro would drive me back home, but today I decided to take a long walk home afterwards.

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Living in Florence :: Florence as a backdrop

After dinner Monday night at my friend Simone's restaurant, Alessandro and I decided to walk through Piazza Santo Spirito on our way back home. We were surprised to see bright luci (lights) shining and a few people standing around the piazza. It was close to 11.30pm and the piazza was quiet even though there were telecamere (television cameras) and proiettori (projectors) sprinkled around. We were excited to see that they were filming a movie in the piazza.

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I have always loved the campane (bells) that ring every hour all around town. Sometimes I admit that I don't hear them, but other times they stop me in mid-sentence. I love that no matter where I am in centro (downtown area), I hear a different set of campane ringing from different chiese (churches) and torre (towers).

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