by Melinda Gallo

I love how Florence always keeps me open. Even after more than 12 years, I am still learning about her and discovering more each day. Florence isn’t a city that you live in, visit, or read about and think you “know” it. You can learn facts about it, study its history, explore the streets, but you can’t truly know her deeply without taking time to be connected to her. Florence is almost like a person. You can meet her, admire her, acquaint yourself with her, but to know her, you have to create a rapport with her. You have to spend time with her and try to experience her in every season.

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Living in Florence :: In Florence to celebrate the New Year

It’s the first day of the year and I am in my beloved city. My beau and I took a three-day trip to Venice and returned in time to celebrate the New Year in Florence. The streets were virtually silent after last night’s festivities that went on until early this morning. When I woke up this morning, the only sound I heard was the church bells echoing throughout the city on the hour. With bright blue skies overhead, we walked along the Arno while only a handful of people were wandering the streets. I was eager to go to the Ponte Vecchio because I was hoping that the “Buon 2015” sign would still be hanging on the ponte (bridge), and it was.

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I haven’t written as much on my blog as I would have wanted to this year. I actually did write a lot for my blog, but in the end didn’t publish what I wrote. I was unsure about how to manage my two blogs and I finally came to the conclusion that I have to separate them a bit more. I will now concentrate only on Florence in this blog. I, of course, couldn’t help but share my beloved city with you all, which is why I took a lot of photos of Florence and shared them on my Instagram account.

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Living in Florence has taught me one important lesson: change is positive. Everything and everyone is changing all the time. Sometimes it’s happening at a fast pace while at other times at a much slower pace, but nothing stays the same. In Florence, I have experienced changes, both big and small: moving apartments, divorcing, changing professions, beginning/completing writing projects, and meeting new friends and letting go of others. I have learned that you can’t hold onto anything and when you try, it is thrust out of your grip anyway.

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Living in Florence :: Celebrating ten years in Florence

When I returned to Florence ten years ago today I wasn’t certain that I would stay as long as I have. In my heart, I knew I didn’t want to never leave, but I couldn’t make such decisions alone. After my five-year hiatus in the US, I arrived in Florence accompanied by my then husband. I had never moved anywhere with anyone and I didn’t know how the move would affect us. Over time, my life in Florence became more important to me than anything or anyone else.

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One of the reasons I feel in my element in Florence is that it is where I can freely live out my emotions. When I was growing up, I was taught to show only “positive” emotions (and not too much of them either) and hide all the “negative” ones. I learned at a young age that no one wanted to see me angry or sad. All the “negative” emotions I had were to be lived out privately and more specifically when I was by alone.

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Living in Florence :: Running along the Arno before taking off

Today was my last day in Florence and I began it with a run along the Arno. During my stay home, I headed up to the Piazzale Michelangiolo for each of my morning runs. However, because it was a little chillier than it has been, I decided to stick to the centro (downtown area). When I arrived at the end of Ponte alle Grazie, I turned right and headed toward the Ponte Vecchio, which looked like it was lit up by the sun that was just coming up.

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Living in Florence :: Pausing to savor the moment

I was almost not going to go running during my stay in Florence because I had forgotten my iPod in France. At first, I was upset with myself because I hate forgetting things. Then, I realized that I could take my iPhone with me, which has all my music on it. I had only run with my iPhone on vacation, but I didn’t realize how this change would end up being so rewarding.

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I love being an expat so much that I can’t imagine not being one. I love how two cities that were foreign to me and have now become so familiar to me that I consider them home. I love how living overseas has opened me up, changed me, allowed me to grow, and stretched me to be who I was born to be. I love how I have learned to look past the surface. I love how I see people for who they are and not what they do. I love how communicating with someone doesn’t involve only the words he/she says.

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Before returning to Paris for work almost four years ago, I kept my French in my back pocket. I pulled it out when I needed it, but kept Italian as my “main” foreign language for over 10 years. Nowadays, I have to juggle both French and Italian, and on a daily basis. I speak to my beau and my colleagues in French, I speak to my friends in Florence in Italian, and I write in English. It might not sound that difficult, but being fluent in two foreign languages is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. It takes concentration, effort, and a bit of fumbling around.

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One of the most common questions I’m asked after I explain where I live is, “Aren’t you going to eventually just pick one place?” The oddest part is that I’m never prepared for the question and rarely have a good answer. I’m usually surprised because I didn’t know that I was supposed to pick just one place. I usually try to explain that I didn’t plan my life to be split between two cities, but I do enjoy it.

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As I continue to split my life between Florence and a Parisian suburb, I have realized that when I arrive home I have to adjust to the rhythm of each city. It took me some time to find my balance between the two cities and now that I have all of my essentials in both homes, I travel rather lightly only bringing certain things to each home that I like. With a flight is only an hour and a half long, it should be easy for me to adjust. However, I always find myself stumbling a little when I return to France.

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During my run yesterday, many thoughts came to mind about my life in Florence and a Parisian suburb. When I talk to my friends, I understand that it looks like a dream to be living between two different countries and be able to speak both Italian and French fluently. I didn’t get to this point in a day; it took many years of persevering. I remember when I was in my university library studying for my French literature class and how all I dreamed about was living in France. In my early twenties, I would’ve been content waiting tables or working in a bookshop just to live in France. Fortunately, I got a hired by a French software company that sent me to Paris. France drew me into its web after I stayed with two different French families (one month each) right after graduating high school. Florence, on the other hand, called to me after only spending three days in its embrace.

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Living in Florence :: Experiencing and cherishing beauty

For me, beauty can be transmitted through photos and words, but the feelings that bubble up inside of you when you experience beauty are personal and powerful. Even though I live in Florence and just outside of Paris, I am exposed to a lot of beauty. I am very sensitive to my surroundings and crave beauty because it inspires me, emotionally moves me, and touches me deeply.

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I plan out my weekends in Florence like most people plan out their vacations. I make mental lists of what I want to see, eat, and visit. The past couple of days, I’ve only been able to go out for brief periods of time due to my work obligations. At night, however, I’ve been walking around the piazze and streets to reacquaint myself with my beloved city’s energy.

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