by Melinda Gallo

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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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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