by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: A Florentine Fauchon

If you've ever been to Paris, one of the most exquisite places to visit is Fauchon in Place de la Madeleine. It is a well-known gourmet shop where you can purchase a wide variety of French delicacies. We have a smaller equivalent to Fauchon in Florence and it's called Pegna. They are even a purveyor of a small selection of Fauchon items.

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In the past, when I have moved someplace new, the one thing I always searched for was a place to buy Asian ingredients that I use to cook some of my favorite dishes. In Paris, it was quite easy because of the many Vietnamese. In Florence, the Vivimarket is in via del Giglio, which is a narrow street behind the San Lorenzo church leading back to the stazione (train station).

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This morning we woke up to rain (as well as a few more SMS from my friends, wishing us a "Buon Anno!"). Some might think that it's not the best weather to have on January 1st, but for us that means that it's not as cold outside! The snow has finally melted away since it first fell on Wednesday and we didn't wake up practically shivering at the sight of the snow outside.

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As this year comes to an end, I am hopeful with what the new year will bring to all of us. Right now we are having the coldest winter ever and the snow that fell a few days ago is still stuck to most rooftops. It's been dark and drizzly all day, but still we have hope for a bright new year.

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One thing I would never accuse the Italians of and that is favoring Italians over foreigners in shops or at the open market. After going to the same places for over a year, I've come to the conclusion that they try to keep track of who is generally next in line unless there are huge lines and then, you have to do it yourself. And if you don't keep track, usually some of the other customers will. Of course, things are a little different in some open markets, like San Lorenzo here in Florence, but that market is mostly for tourists.

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Living in Florence :: Waking up to a few inches of snow

Last night at about 11PM, I was surprised by how light it was outside. On one of our windows, we have a thin curtain just so no one can see in. I opened the window and looked out. It was as if it were 7AM because of how light it was. It was snowing steadily for many hours and this morning there was at least four to six inches of snow on the ground, rooftops, and my poor plants!

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Living in Florence :: A flurry of snow and hot bagels

This morning, luckily, I went to the Co-Op grocery store to buy some food. It was freezing cold, probably about 30F, but the sun was out. The little slivers of sun that I felt on my face didn't warm me up at all. After I walked the mile home with two bags of groceries, I thought my hands were going to fall off. I even tried to warm them up by running hot water on them, but that just made them hurt even more.

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Living in Florence :: My visit to Monte Bello

I walked down via degli Alfani to via dei Servi where my friends, Maurizio and Dani, have a shop named "Monte Bello" where they make some amazing things. Many of which I bought when I lived in Florence before and then left them all back in the US. They take pieces of wood and design, carve, and paint on them, like paintings, boxes, frames, mirrors, and more unique artistic pieces.

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Today is Santo Stefano. Yet another holiday in Italy. Supposedly this holiday was introduced by the Italian government to extend the Christmas holiday by one day. Although others say that it's the day that announced the birth of Jesus. For whatever reason, today everything (except a few restaurants and some shops downtown) was closed. Even the little Chinese market, which is open every day of the year, was closed.

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I received a few SMS from my Italian friends wishing me a Buon Natale (Merry Christmas). Many of them sent messages after dinner while others waited until midnight to send them to me. It was very sweet since these days not many of my Italian friends send cards and even fewer send emails.

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Living in Florence :: Homemade Panettone

Today Simone called me to ask me to come by his restaurant before 5PM. He said he made me a Panettone for Christmas. Panettone is the Italian Christmas cake with candied fruit. They seem to sell it everywhere: at the supermarket, at bakeries, and even at the open market. Usually I get Pandoro, which is the same cake without the candied fruit. It comes with a bag of powdered sugar that you open and pour into the cake's bag and shake it.

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Living in Florence :: Last minute Christmas shopping

Today I walked all over town doing some shopping. I love shopping and I especially love shopping late in the season. I love the hustle-bustle. It's not like anyone in centro (downtown) was window shopping. Everyone had one thing on their mind: find more gifts.

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Living in Florence :: Ci sono, ci sono...

Today I finally went to my yoga center in via de' Benci where two of my friends work: Annunziata and Rossella. I haven't seen them since I left for the US in October. It was great to see them both. Annunziata is going to India on Saturday and won't be back until mid-January. They embraced me tightly and said, "Finalmente!" (Finally!) It was great to see them both again.

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Living in Florence :: 'Tis the season

You can definitely tell it's Christmas here in Florence. There are lights hanging between the buildings on all the major streets and there's a big tree with lights in Piazza Repubblica (which is in the picture here). I went downtown to window shop and to watch the crowds of people, mostly shopping in twos, searching for gifts and lugging bags around.

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I'm not opposed to nicknames; however, I don't like being called anything but my own first name. My niece, however, has a nickname for me that I love, which is "Mimi," but it's reserved for her. When I lived in England, almost everyone I knew called me "Mel," which I hated. It must have been a cultural thing since they took the first syllable of almost every woman's name as their nickname. "Sally" would become "Sal" and "Natalie" would be "Nat."

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