by Melinda Gallo

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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When I got home, Claudia came to my room and said, "Catherine va via domani." (Catherine is leaving tomorrow). I knew they had become quite close because they had been living together and going to the same school for the past few months. "Quando torno in Cile, non ci rivedremo pił," (When I go back to Chile, we won't see each other any more) she said plucking another tissue from the box she placed on her lap.

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Today I emailed Steve and Susan to meet for an aperitivo downtown. They told me that they were going to see Linda Falcone at the Paperback Exchange bookstore. I had heard that she was going to be at the McRae Bookstore the day before, but I couldn't make it. She has written a book called, "Italians Dance and I'm a Wallflower--Adventures in Italian Expression" and I was very interested in reading the book and listening to her.

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It has taken me a few days back to get back in the swing of things here in Florence. We were only in France for a week and it has taken me almost half that time to get used to living here again. I almost feel as if I was more comfortable in France than I am here in Italy.

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Living in Florence :: Happy to be home

During our final breakfast at the local pātisserie (pastry shop), we realized how much we did during our week stay in France. We had had some great times and had visited cities and places that we thoroughly enjoyed. We didn't make any plans for our trip except for our three-day conference in Opio and four days off in Nice.

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Living in Florence :: Grand Prix de Monaco

We took the train from Nice to Monaco to see if we could get a glimpse of the Grand Prix de Monaco (Monaco Formula 1). We didn't do any research about getting tickets, but we did know that today they would be racing the classic cars. We had no idea what to expect in Monaco and we were pleasantly surprised.

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Living in Florence :: Enjoying Nice

During the conference in Opio, I had talked to many French people there who told me that Nice wasn't that interesting to visit. They said that the vieux Nice (old town in Nice) is interesting, although dirty, but that the rest of the city wasn't appealing. Most of them suggested that we go to Cannes and Monaco instead. This morning, we decided to stay in Nice to walk around and visit as much of it as possible.

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Living in Florence :: Cannes Film Festival

When we were told of our French conference, I hadn't realized that the Cannes Film Festival would be held at the same time. It's not something that I generally keep track of. I know when it's going on when it's in the news. I was thinking of staying in Cannes instead of Nice, but I decided against it when I couldn't find any nice rooms there.

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Our days in Opio have been full of sun and cool breezes. We've been able to have all the windows and doors open during the day and even the night in our room. It's the one thing we can almost never do in Florence in the spring and summer because of the zanzare (mosquitoes). I would've thought we'd be invaded by various insects in the French countryside, but there seem to be very few.

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Dave and I have never been to a Club Med before. Last year when we were in the US for a conference, the French mother-company invited Dave and me to come to their French conference. They offered to pay for everything and Dave, in exchange, would do a few presentations. All we had to do was get here.

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When I woke up at 5:30AM this morning, I took a picture of the sunrise from one of our windows in the apartment because I never get to see it. At 7AM, I called a taxi and they gave us only a few minutes to drag our luggage downstairs. The second we opened the building door, the taxi arrived. He drove us down the empty streets and I looked back at the Santa Croce church, which was so beautifully lit in the morning sun, as we turned toward Piazza della Signoria.

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