by Melinda Gallo

Itís not that Iím afraid to fly, but I honestly didnít feel safe in the Avro RJ85 that took me between Florence and Paris. It felt a bit like an economy car that was certainly efficient, but just wasnít as sturdy. When we hit turbulence, it felt more like we were in a car racing over a speed bump. I dislike, however, thinking that my last moment on Earth could be while sitting on an airplane with a bunch of people I donít even know. I probably wouldnít think so much about my mortality if everyone would stop saying, ďHave a safe flight.Ē I used to cringe at the words and once said, ďOf course I will; Iím not flying the plane.Ē Even though my friends mean well, that seed of fear lingered in my head for an hour and a half (the length of my flight between Florence and Paris).

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For my run this morning, I headed toward Ponte San NiccolÚ with the sun glaring in front of me. I tried to look out at the Arno, but the cobblestone sidewalk required more of my attention at times. After crossing the ponte (bridge) and heading back toward town, I was able to take in the city monument by monument. First, I saw the Duomo, then the side of Santa Croce, and above to my left was Piazzale Michelangiolo. Then, I let my eyes fall on the torre (tower) of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio.

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Living in Florence :: Respite brings about renewed vigor

Initially I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do on my day off. I imagined myself going to the Uffizi to admire the Nascita di Venere by Botticelli. Then, I thought I would eat lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. In the afternoon, I was hoping to enjoy a tea in the bar at the top of the Giardino Bardini while looking out at Florence. In the end, I didnít do any of that and instead felt more inclined to walk one of my running routes along the lungarno to Ponte San NiccolÚ and then onto the viale (large avenue) that winds its way up to Piazzale Michelangiolo.

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When I woke up this morning, I decided to take the day off from work. I had a lot planned to do, but I wasnít feeling very optimistic. Itís odd for me to be in Florence and not feel connected to it. Iíve been here for almost a week and just havenít had a chance to commune with Florence alone. My beau spent the weekend with me and we were able to enjoy the sunny days in Florence over the weekend, but it wasnít enough for me. When I am away from Florence, I feel my connection to weaken just a little bit so when I return I always feel the need to rekindle the flame I have for my beloved city.

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Living in Florence :: Tapping into Florenceís energy

I spent very little time engaged in my beloved city when I was there a couple of weeks ago. Now that I am in France, I miss Florence. I looked out at the Arno from my apartment windows every day when I was home, but I wanted to take in the city a lot more: stroll the streets, walk along the Arno, and maybe even visit a museum. I wanted to open myself up even more to my city, savor it, and bask in it. Florence is unlike any other city I know. Its energy not only inspires me, but it uplifts me, opens my heart, and fills me up with love and joy. No other place on Earth does this for me time and time again.

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February is the shortest month of the year, but it seemed to have been the longest. In January, I was preparing for the new year by putting all my ducks in a row. As soon as February hit, everything seemed to come to a standstill. Besides being sick for the second half of the month, the lull arrived at the beginning.

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I usually have a mental list of what Iíd like to do during my trips home to Florence. I never write this list down because I prefer being flexible. I had a few plans to meet up with girlfriends, go to a Fiorentina match, see my naturopata (naturopath), get a massage, visit a few museums, go shopping, and walk around town as much as possible. I was able to do some of what I wanted initially; however, as soon as I arrived, allergies struck me. Then, on Saturday night I caught a cold and two days later, I lost my voice.

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I always forget how delicious domenica (Sunday) is until I am back in Florence. I usually only spend one Sunday a month here, but it is by far the most delightful day of the week. Donít get me wrong: I love the other days too. I like Mondays because they mark the beginning of the week and the door to possibilities; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays because I am in the flow; Fridays because I daydream about the weekend; and Saturdays because I accomplish my personal goals and prepare myself for the next week. And then thereís Sunday, which is the day I get to relax, take care of myself, spend time with loved ones, and luxuriate in any way I see fit.

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When I woke up this morning, I felt as if my life finally made sense. Iíve been trying to balance my two cities and to live fully in both for the past year and a half. It hasnít been simple because I thought I had to choose one over the other, but I love them both for different reasons. Each city has its dominant energy: Florenceís is feminine and Parisís is masculine. For me, these two polar opposites translate into two states: passive and active. Being and doing.

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This morning I intended on going for a cappuccino in Piazza della Signoria since my favorite place is closed for the next two weeks. When I arrived I the piazza, I noticed that it was closed. My only plan B was to go much farther away to CaffŤ Giacosa. I didnít really have the time, but I rushed over anyway because I love the caffŤ and the paste (pastries).

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Itís only when I interact with people in both of my cities on the same day that I realize some major differences. Normally, I accept each culture quite easily and get into the rhythm of the city rather quickly. However, on the day that I travel from one to the other, I stumble through the transition.

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Even though I rarely ever make New Yearís resolutions, I decided that this year I wanted to set a few intentions for 2014. When I think of resolutions, I usually think of things I need or want to improve, but this year isnít about improvement as much as it is about setting a new path for myself and walking down it. This year, I want to be more proactive by defining goals and focusing on them until I complete them.

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Living in Florence :: The magic of my two cities

After spending the holidays with my beau and my sister and her family in both Florence and Paris, I thought about my two cities a little differently. My sister told me how she experienced Florence and Paris and that spawned me to think about them too. I generally try to accept and appreciate my cities as I would a person, and rarely thought to compare them to each other in detail. Living in both cities is a source of great joy for me.

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In the middle of November, I wanted to write something to celebrate my nine-year anniversary of living in Florence. I almost canít believe that nine years have passed since I moved back to Florence after my five-year hiatus in the US. Most of my family and friends in the US define me as an expat although thatís not how I would describe myself even though by definition I am an expat. For me, an expat is someone who chooses to live in another country, embraces the new culture, speaks the countryís language, and adapts to its lifestyle.

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Living in Florence :: Tapping into my beloved city

During my last trip to Florence, I got off the bus in San Frediano after going out to Scandicci for an appointment. I wanted to walk home along the Arno, enjoy some alone time, and take a few pictures. With each step, I took in the beauty of my beloved city, breathed in its crisp air and felt its energy flow through me. I crossed Ponte alla Carraia and looked over the edge to watch the water flow under my feet and head east. When I looked over at Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte Vecchio, I was overwhelmed with joy.

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