by Melinda Gallo

No matter the weather in Florence, I enjoy my beloved city. This spring, the weather seems to be a bit unpredictable. In just a few days, weíve experienced mild temperatures under the bright sun as well as dark clouds spurting out torrential rain, and often in the same day. The changes in the weather have an effect on how the city appears and feels. I enjoy my beloved city regardless of what is going on around it, but I appreciate different aspects depending on the weather.

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Life, of course, is precious. Striving to make each moment count is a daily goal of mine. When Iím in Florence, however, I try to optimize my time even more because nowadays I am here for such a short amount of time. I could spend more time in Florence, but I enjoy my time in France especially with my beau. I aim to use my time wisely when Iím home in Florence and I try not to waste it doing anything I donít feel like doing. I have become quite Florentine in that if something that non mi va (Iím not keen on), I donít push myself to do it.

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When I woke up this morning, I felt a twinge of excitement bubble up inside of me as I listened to the water flowing softly in the Arno. The moment I opened the windows of my apartment, I admired the warm colors glowing across the fiume (river) and inhaled the scent of my beloved city. I wanted to walk around one of the Florentine giardini (gardens), but already had plans to go to the stadio (stadium) to see the Fiorentina play. The last time I went to the stadio was in January.

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I have only been away for two weeks and yet Florence has dramatically changed in that time. When I left, it was still cold and rainy, the streets were virtually empty, and the city was still in its winter slumber. As my taxi drove me through the centro (center) this evening, I was surprised by the crowds of people, the warm air, the bright sun, and the sweet smell of spring. As soon as I got home, I dropped my bags, and I went out for a walk around my beloved city.

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This morning, like every morning since I returned to Florence, I walked to Vivoli where I have colazione (breakfast). I not only go for the caffŤ (coffee) and paste (pastries), but also for the women who work there. Over the years, we have become quite friendly. Every time I return to Florence, I go there so I can catch up with them while I enjoy a good caffŤ.

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It has been a long winter for me. Only now that I have returned to Florence do I feel as if spring is not that far away. In Paris, it snowed just a few days after the first sunny Saturday afternoon. I thought that one day marked the beginning of spring, but it was not. I was pleased to arrive in Florence to see the sun shining overhead and flower buds on trees. I am once again hopeful that spring is finally on its way.

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My trip to Florence last week was so brief that I didnít find the time to write about it. I arrived last Monday evening to the clear blue skies of Florence and returned to a snowy Paris on Saturday. I spent all my free time soaking up my beloved city and catching up with my friends. Itís only now that I realize how vital my trips to Florence are for me. The time I spend there is both intense and relaxing.

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Living in two cities is like living two lives. I have two lifestyles that include two homes, two sets of friends, two works schedules, two diets, two languages, and two cultures. Itís a lot to juggle for me, but when I am in one place, I try to be fully present. Now that I am in Paris, I am at peace with my home here. I havenít forgotten my beloved city, Florence. It is always in the back of my mind, but I donít dwell on its absence in my life.

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Iíve already returned from Florence to Paris since Sunday. I went home last Friday and brought with me my beau. Over the weekend, I showed off my beloved city and took in its splendor. I enjoyed walking the streets and visiting a few special spots. I was over the moon to share my beloved city with my beau. We ate at a couple of my favorite restaurants, visited the Uffizi, and went to a soccer match to watch the Fiorentina play.

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After flying over snow-capped mountains just north of Tuscany, we landed in Florence this afternoon where the skies were clear and the sun was shining high above. The second I got off the plane, I took in a deep breath and felt my body relax a little bit. It was a joy to sense the warm air brush against my face. Iím finally home, I thought to myself.

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A strange thing happens when Iím a few days from my return to Florence: I suddenly begin inserting Italian words into my vocabulary and my beloved city begins to surface more in my mind. Itís almost as if my brain is preparing itself for the switch. Tomorrow Iím returning to Florence after a six-week stay in France. While Iíve been in France, I havenít longed much for my beloved city, but I admit that I have missed it dearly.

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What I have found interesting about speaking a foreign language is how sensitive I have become to everything around the words that a person says. A person can say something to me and I find myself processing the conversation on multiple levels: the actual words, the personís tone of voice, his/her facial expressions and my own emotional reaction to the conversation. I think this sensitivity came about when I initially didnít understand the words in a foreign language: I had to expand my ability to understand a conversation while I caught up with learning the language.

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What a difference a year makes. I read the post I wrote last year when I was in Florence. When the year began, I had no idea what changes were in store for me. Looking back now, itís as if my entire life changed in the blink of an eye even though it felt strenuous at times. This year I stayed in with my beau after having spent a few days in Saint-Malo (Brittany). I loved seeing the water, running along the beach, enjoying the local delicacies, taking in the fresh air, and recharging my batteries before 2013 began.

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This morning when I woke up, the sky was grey. I felt a strong sense of joy inside of me, but a veil of melancholy was definitely present too. At times, however, I find great comfort in sad songs and grey skies. I like the duality of my emotions. I am fine with feeling love and joy pulsate through me while a sense of sadness washes over me. I know that the sadness is not permanent, but I know that I have to let it run its course and not fight it off.

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For the past few days, Iíve been picking back up my daily abitudini (habits) that I have when Iím here in Florence. I go to Vivoli or Giacosa for colazione (breakfast), shop for food in via dei Neri, and visit my friends who work in centro (downtown) when Iím out walking around. One of the nicest feelings is when Iím walking down the street and someone I know calls out to me, ďCiao bella!Ē I love that in Florence, people I know take notice and have even become closer to me now that they see me less habitually.

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