by Melinda Gallo

When I woke up this morning, I felt as if my life finally made sense. I’ve been trying to balance my two cities and to live fully in both for the past year and a half. It hasn’t 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: Florence’s is feminine and Paris’s 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 Caffè Giacosa. I didn’t really have the time, but I rushed over anyway because I love the caffè and the paste (pastries).

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It’s 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 Year’s 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 isn’t 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 can’t 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 that’s 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 country’s 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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I have learned to go with the punches and not make waves. On the day I was supposed to sign the compromesso (preliminary contract/agreement to purchase), the deal fell through. The apartment I fell in love with back in August was suddenly no longer my future apartment. Technically the apartment was defined as being “commercial,” yet it was in the process of being changed to “residential.” Unfortunately, between my bank not accepting it and a miscalculation of the height of the ceilings, the chances of it becoming “residential” were practically nil. The owner wasn’t going to wait and therefore, I had to move on.

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Soon I’ll be celebrating my nine-year anniversary living in Florence. It’s 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 couldn’t help but stare at the Torre di San Niccolò. 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 “I am home” floated in my head. It’s 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 it’s the easiest beach to get to from Florence. I hadn’t been to Viareggio in many years and didn’t 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, “they” said that it wasn’t 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 I’m looking for an apartment to buy so I can finally set down my roots. For the past few weeks, I’ve been searching on the Internet. I sent out a few requests, but so far (mostly because many are still on vacation) I haven’t received many responses.

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