by Melinda Gallo

Today I went to Elisir, which is a perfume and skin care shop in Borgo degli Albizi, where I have become friendly with Rossella. I see her about once a month to get facials and buy products. She and I diamo del tu (use the familiar you form) although her husband and I diamo del Lei (use the formal you).

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Living in Florence :: A whirlwind visit of Florence

Today I met with my brother-in-law's sister, Linda, who came to Florence for the morning from Siena before heading off to Bologna. We scheduled to meet at 10:30AM at the Museo di Storia della Scienza. I was hoping that my tessera (card) for the "Amici degli Uffizzi" would be accepted, but the man at the biglietteria (ticket counter) told me that the museum is private and so he didn't accept it.

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I have been looking forward to meeting Jeff Shapiro for awhile. I found out that he was going to be at McRae bookstore last month, so I decided to buy one of his books, "Secrets of Sant'Angelo," when I stopped in one day. There were only two copies left in the shop and I wanted to make sure that I got a copy before Jeff came to the bookstore. That night I began reading the book and kept telling myself that I'd just read one more chapter even though it was late. My eyes were droopy, but I persevered and kept reading as long as I could.

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Today, we only had a few hours together. Unfortunately, Dave was still not feeling well, so I went with Massimo and our French friends alone. They picked me up in front of the Biblioteca nazionale which is along the lungarno. I saw crowds of tourists walking toward me and I was surprised that there were so many.

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Dave wasn't feeling well this morning, so I met up with Massimo and our French friends, L. and A. by myself. I didn't have an exact plan of what to show them becuase there's so much to see and we only had one day. I decided to take them to the Piazza della Signoria to start the tour after meeting them along the lungarno.

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Massimo drove our mutual French friends, Dave, and me to Florence from Milan. We were going to go back by train, but Massimo suggested that we all go together. Massimo had a minor language problem and I was supposed to bridge the gap. Massimo speaks Italian and a little English and an even smaller amount of French. Our French friends speak French and English. So, I was asked to translate between the French and Italian when necessary.

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Before catching a train to Milan for yet another conference yesterday, Dave and I went and had cappuccini e paste (cappuccinos and pastries) in a new bar. We decided to try a new bar that a friend of ours told us about in via Palmieri. Everyone seems to have a favorite bar to have a cappuccino and mine is on Borgo degli Albizi. Although it's also a pastry shop too.

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This morning at the gym someone actually talked to me. Usually women will only say hello and goodbye to me in the spogliatoio (locker room) and unless I make a comment about the weather, our conversation starts and stops there. Generally people at the gym take one look at me, realize that I'm not Italian, and pretend that I don't exist. The guy at the reception is friendly now that I've asked about his arm in the gesso (cast) and tell him buona giornata every time I leave.

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This morning we took a taxi to the Europcar office in Borgo Ognissanti to meet Maureen. She's a woman from Boston who comes to Florence because her sister lives here. She had offered us a ride to the Expats in Italy GTG (get together) in Chianti. I recognized Maureen because I saw her picture on the SlowTravel website where she's a moderator.

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Usually in Italy when there's a festa (holiday) on one day, people try to take a few days off to fare il ponte (literally means to make a bridge, but means to take a long weekend). Today is festa and a few of my friends took a long weekend even though the weather is not optimal. The temperatures have dropped to the mid 60's and it has been raining off and on.

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No matter where I go in Florence, I'm faced with people I don't know. Some people I'd like to become better acquainted with and others I'd just like to be friendly with. I have learned one thing living here in Florence and that is that if I want to begin a conversation with anyone I don't already know, I make comments about the weather.

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I feel like I've been more social in the last week than I have in probably two years! In just one week, Dave and I went out for drinks and dinner with Steve and Susan, attended a Garden Party over the weekend where we made a few new acquaintances, I had lunch with Marie, Paola, and their friend Jim, and today we enjoyed lunch with Art and Glen.

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Yesteray I went to the McRae bookstore and saw a flyer for a workshop for scrittura creativa (creative writing). I had been looking for something like that to get me back into a group of writers. I had found one course that will be held for a week in Florence, but it was quite expensive. For about 20 hours, it was $1300. I'm sure it's worth it, but since I've never heard of the instructors, it was a risky investment. I was going to look some more in Firenze Spettacolo, but when I saw the flyer at the bookstore, I knew it was fate.

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One of the biggest complaints I've heard from many people who are learning Italian is that there aren't many Florentines who want to speak to them in Italian. When I was learning Italian back in 1997, I didn't run into this problem much. First, I believe it's because not as many Florentines spoke English as readily as they do now and also because I lived a little outside centro (downtown). But nowadays, I do see that it happens quite often, especially in centro.

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Last year when Dave and I went to a 4th of July celebration outside Florence, we saw a Democrats Abroad booth where I gave my email address to find out about upcoming events. Dave and I aren't generally the types to join groups and today was the first time we even attended anything of theirs.

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