by Melinda Gallo

Soon Iíll be celebrating my nine-year anniversary living in Florence. Itís hard to believe that nine years have gone by already. So much has happened in my life in that time. Ever since I moved to Florence the first time in 1997, I have considered Florence my home. Even though I returned to the US for a few years, Florence was still blazing in my heart and I knew that I would call it home again.

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Some days, the harmony between my beloved city and Mother Nature are so riveting that it takes my breath away. This morning when I headed out for a run and was walking on Ponte alle Grazie, I couldnít help but stare at the Torre di San NiccolÚ. A dark cloud (one of the only ones in the sky) was hovering overhead and rays of sunshine were piercing through the sky shedding bright yellow beams of light down on the torre. It was one of those rare moments when I expected to hear angels to be singing.

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This morning I went for a run under the rippled grey clouds and the Arno at my side. I enjoyed the cool air brushing against my face as I ran down the lungarno (road along the Arno). I let my thoughts swirl around me while I took in the beauty of my beloved city. With each breath, I left my stress and worries behind me.

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I arrived back in Florence last Saturday. I welcomed the warm blast of air that hit me as I walked down the stairs of the airplane. After taking in one deep breath and turning around to see the sun coloring the sky, my entire body relaxed. The words ďI am homeĒ floated in my head. Itís odd for me because I feel at home in Paris especially with my beau, but Florence is my true home where I feel more relaxed, nurtured, and loved.

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My girlfriend and I planned on taking a day trip to the beach yesterday because it was my last weekend in Florence before heading back to Paris. We made plans to go to Viareggio because itís the easiest beach to get to from Florence. I hadnít been to Viareggio in many years and didnít have a great memory of the beach, but decided to go anyway.

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When I told many of my friends and acquaintances that I was going to stay in Florence an extra week to search for my apartment, ďtheyĒ said that it wasnít worth it. Their excuses were that agencies are closed and owners are still away on vacation. Before taking off for Florence, I emailed about 10 agencies to visit apartments that I saw on-line. I immediately received two responses, which were not positive. Right before arriving in Florence, one agency told me that I could visit an apartment, which was the one I saw on Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, after not hearing anything for a few days, another man called me on the phone to visit an apartment that I had enquired about. I went to visit it on this morning with my girlfriend.

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I had initially planned on returning to Paris with my beau on Monday, but instead I decided to stay an extra week in Florence. My main motivation is because Iím looking for an apartment to buy so I can finally set down my roots. For the past few weeks, Iíve been searching on the Internet. I sent out a few requests, but so far (mostly because many are still on vacation) I havenít received many responses.

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If the romance disappears, love can certainly fade. At least thatís what I believe. Florence may be my home, but I canít let the romance or love fade by not showing my beloved city some love. After visiting Tuscany on Thursday and Friday with my beau, I wanted to spend the rest of our time together enjoying Florence. These last three days, I took my beau around town to visit my favorite chiese (churches), musei (museums), trattorie/ristoranti (restaurants), and bars (cafťs). When I get the chance to visit my beloved city as a tourist, I definitely feel myself open up and appreciate her even more.

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Living in Florence :: Enjoying Tuscany to its fullest

When we got on the two-wagon train this morning, I didnít think the day would go well. The platform was packed with people going to Siena and the train was so small people were standing in the aisles. I was one of the lucky ones seated with my beau at my feet. We got off a couple of stops before Siena at Poggibonsi to catch a bus to San Gimigniano. I hadnít been back to visit this Tuscan hillside town in years and was eager to take my beau there.

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The Tuscan countryside is a blur from the window of the train. I try to focus on the rustic buildings in the distance, but am easily distracted by the large fields of girasoli (sunflowers). Its burst of yellow always puts a smile on my face. My beau and I planned on going to trip at the last minute and hopped on a train this morning. I canít even remember the last time I went to visit Pisa, maybe about 8 years ago.

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Itís been a month since Iíve last come home to Florence. I visited a couple of beautiful places, but nothing ever compares to my beloved city. When my plane touched down, I couldnít wait until I could walk down the airplane steps to finally breathe in my beloved cityís air.

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When I started my new blog a year ago, I pictured my new life a little differently. I thought that I would live in Paris and not in the banlieu (suburbs) and I thought that Iíd spend two weeks in Florence and two weeks in Paris. Instead I only spend about one week in Florence per month and the rest of my time in a Parisian banlieu with my beau. It has taken me at least a year to adjust to the choices Iíve made. I am happy and grateful, but there are a few adjustments Iíd still like to make.

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Dates are important to me. I remember the dates of everything that is significant to me: births, deaths, and my arrival in Florence (both times). Today is Florenceís saintís day, San Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist). Itís the one day I am usually in Florence because I get to celebrate my beloved city.

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Itís the beginning of summer and I woke up to the sound of rain hitting the window and the thunder growling in the distant. I looked at my phone and saw that it will be rainy all day. In Florence, however, it is hot and sunny. This year, the weather has been odd. Maybe not just in Paris, but also in other parts of Europe When I was in Florence in May, it was a little cooler than it normally is in spring.

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I was supposed to fly back to Florence for a few days yesterday, but instead I decided to stay in Paris. After all the trips Iíve taken these last few months, I felt the need to just relax and enjoy where I am. Even though I love to travel, I do enjoy just staying put.

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