by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Museo del Bigallo

My plan for today was to just go to the comune (city hall) to drop off my notarized autocertificazione (self-declaration) and see my girlfriend Haruko for lunch. My plans always feel a bit loose as I'm happy changing them and adapting to whatever comes up. At noon, we still hadn't decided on where to go or where to meet. I called up Haruko and we decided on going to Osir, which is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Florence, because I hadn't been in a long time and she hadn't yet been.

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Living in Florence :: Transcribing my marriage in Italy

After many visits to the comune earlier this year and one visit to an empty office on Monday, I finally got an answer about our certificato di matrimonio (marriage certificate) this last Tuesday. I found out that it arrived on March 10th from the Italian Consulate in the States, but had not yet been trascritto (transcribed).

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After coming back from Thailand, I had secretly hoped that the weather would be warmer when we returned to Florence. I was thinking that by the middle of April, the temperatures would be a bit higher here, but lately it's been only about 10 to 13C (50 to 56F).

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Living in Florence :: Solidarity

On the front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a large red gonfalone (banner) that says, "Human Rights in Tibet." A friend of mine told me it was there and I had to take a walk this evening to see it for myself. As I stood in Piazza della Signoria I wondered who thought of printing it and displaying it in front of the Palazzo Vecchio above the Giglio di Firenze (Florentine Lily) and below the flags for Europe, Italy and Florence.

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The first thing I noticed during my first stroll through Florence wasn't the tourists, but the zingari (gypsies). When we were on the train from Rome, I had overheard an Italian woman talk about how there were a lot of zingari. I tend to not see them, but today, it seemed that they were everywhere I went.

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After a flight to Bangkok from Krabi, we waited until 3 a.m. before our plane arrived from Taiwan to take it direct to Rome. We ate our last meal at the airport and said good-bye to Thailand for now. We arrived in Rome on time and rushed to the express train to take us to the main train station in Rome. Within an hour, we were on our Eurostar to Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Leaving Krabi

After being in Krabi for almost two weeks, I began to get used to going to the beach, seeing the water, going on excursions, eating Thai food, and walking around the streets of this seaside town. It wasn't until last Saturday that I truly missed Florence. I was changing the memory card in my camera and saw a film that I took of the scoppio del carro (explosion of the cart) on Easter Sunday in front of the Duomo. Suddenly, I felt a pang in my heart and missed Florence so much that I couldn't wait to get back. I was thinking about how I wanted to see the buildings, the streets, the people, the monuments, and the churches.

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Living in Florence :: Poda Island

For our last day at the beach before we head back to Florence, we decided to go to Poda Island, which is opposite the Ao Nang beach. We had stopped there to drop off people when we went to Chicken Island and we thought it was an interesting island to stay on for the day. We got on the long-tail boat to Poda Island with a few other people and we crossed the water. It was another warm and sunny day, and we couldn't wait to sit on the beach and enjoy the water.

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Living in Florence :: Similan Islands

The one trip that Alessandro wanted more than any other during our stay in Ao Nang, Krabi was going to Similan Island. He had been there before and raved to me how amazing it was. He said the islands were surrounded by clear water and had white sandy beaches. And, most of all, he told me how peaceful and amazingly beautiful the islands were.

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After our hike up the Tiger Cave temple mountain, we were looking forward to a day at the beach. We paid for our roundtrip tickets to take a long-tail boat to Railay beach. We chose this beach because it was close and we knew that there were a few shops and restaurants that we could visit.

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Living in Florence :: Hiking the stairs up Tiger Cave Temple Mountain

At 8 a.m. we were standing outside of our hotel and a van drove up to take us on our next day trip. We wanted to ride an elephant, per my sister's suggestion, and visit some more of the local sites. We chose one company for today's tour, but the woman at the tour agency suggested we choose a different one after she offered us a discount. Each of the tour companies offered to allow us to visit the same sites, so we selected the one she asked us to consider.

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Living in Florence :: Chicken Island

We took a long-tail boat to Chicken Island, which is off the coast of Ao Nang beach today. When we were in front of the woman at the ticket booth about how to get to the island that is across the beach from us, she pointed to the photos of the various islands and beaches around. We chose Chicken Island because we saw that there was a short distance between that island and Tup Island and we were told we could visit both of them.

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Living in Florence :: James Bond tour

With the numerous tours available, we had to browse many brochures to see what was available and to see what interested us the most. There is something for everyone, like kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, visiting islands, elephant riding, and cooking. For today, we chose the James Bond tour, which offered a variety of different visits in the itinerary including a visit to Kao Tapoo, which is called James Bond Island because "The Man with the Golden Gun" was filmed there.

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The one thing that I've had a hard time to get used to is bargaining. I read that no matter what price they tell you, you should only pay about 25% of that. I went into a shop to look at a sun dress and I asked the woman how much it was. She picked up a calculator and punched in "300." To pay six Euros for a sun dress isn't that much, but I assumed that if I'm supposed to only pay 75 bhat (about 1.50 Euro), I should try to bargain a little bit.

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Living in Florence :: Eating food from the stands

All up and down the main street that takes us from our hotel to the beach and then along the beach, there are stands that make and sell food. These stands are attached to scooters that they use to transport the stand in and out of its parked location on the street.

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