by Melinda Gallo

I officially started looking for an apartment today. I have been surfing the Internet, talking to a few people I know, and buying La Pulce to check out the classified ads. But, today I finally saw an apartment. Simone (our landlord) will continue renting to us, but he'd like to move back within the next 6 months.

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At first I thought maybe this is how they do things in Italy. Three out of three friends told me that they'll take me to a bank and introduce me. I figured they would escort me to the bank, introduce me to their banker, and then the banker would help me open an account offering me plenty of benefits.

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And so, today August 1st marks the beginning of Summer here in Italy. Most of my Italian friends sent me emails on Friday wishing me buone vacanze (a good vacation). So many people seem to be taking part or all of the month off. And I've already noticed how much quieter the city is.

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Living in Florence :: Is vandalism illegal?

Last night, we ate dinner on a terrace of a restaurant near Piazza della Repubblica. As we sat there, I noticed two police officers drive up and get out of their car. Then, I noticed two young guys spray painting an edicola (news kiosk).

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Living in Florence :: Un concerto all'improviso

As we walked down the Via di San Giuseppe next to the Santa Croce church, we could hear music blaring. It is quite common to hear people playing in the piazza. There are summer concerts in many of the piazze in Florence on the weekends.

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Well, for the second day in a row it's been in the high nineties and probably reached 100 degrees. The lows are a in the high sixties, low seventies. Just a week ago, it was cool and rained off and on for two days in a row. Everyone talks about the heat. How can you not mention it? It's all around you.

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Today my husband and I took his parents, sister, and our nephew on a tour of Tuscany. We started at San Gimigniano, then to Volterra, and finally to Monteriggioni. We hired a driver, Massimiliano, to take us around in a van. I got spoiled when we did this with my brother just last week to go to the outlet malls. I didn't want to rent a car and drive five other people around a place I've only been driven to myself. Besides, that's no way to enjoy the countryside.

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What I find interesting in Italy is the number of different expressions people use each day. You'd think after living here for awhile, I wouldn't hear that many new expressions. And yet almost each day, I hear something new or at least something I haven't heard before.

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The question everyone has on their mind: dove vai in ferie? (where are you going on vacation?) The Florentines are getting ready to go (if they haven't already gone) on vacation. Many of the shops and restaurants have signs stating when they'll be closed.

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I brought my brother, sister-in-law, and their children to the Mercato di San Lorenzo today at about 11AM. I never come to this area because in my mind it's always crowded. I know that the indoor mercato is larger than the one I go to at Sant'Ambrogio, but San Lorenzo is too far for me to go for my shopping excursions.

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Today was my first trip to the outlet malls outside of Florence. My brother and his wife are visiting from California and asked me to arrange a trip out there. I searched on the Internet, asked my friends, and in the end we paid a driver to pick us up and take us there. It was 170 Euros for all 6 of us and we could spend however much time we wanted.

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Tonight Dave and I took my brother, his wife and three kids to my friend (and landlord) Simone's restaurant, Il Canapone. It is my favorite restaurant in Florence because of its diverse menu of Italian fusion cooking. It's a nice variation from the typical Tuscan cooking in most restaurants here in Florence.

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Where there is shade, there are people. Here the sun seems to pierce your clothes and scald your skin. When the sun is out, everyone heads for the shade. Some people wear hats (portable shade) and others walk farther distances just to be in the shade given off by the buildings.

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I thought I was nervous when the woman took my blood for the tests, but I was even more nervous when the alarm on my computer told me it was time to go back to pick up my results. Each step felt like my last. What are they going to say? Is anything wrong with me? What could be wrong with me?

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I'm still not completely clear about the medical system here in Italy. I know that I can go to see my doctor any day of the week during her "open" times for free. I know that she gives me prescriptions and I get them filled and pay either nothing or next to nothing.

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