by Melinda Gallo

After two weekends away from Florence, we're so happy to be home. The only time I went out was to go to the market to buy fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and cheese today. I almost never go to the supermarket any more and have become a regular at the outdoor market.

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Living in Florence :: In a hurry to leave Lido

Yesterday we went to the Excelsior hotel next to where the Venice Film Festival is held each year around August/September. We rode bikes past the crowded public beaches and the almost empty private beaches. We have never ridden bikes in Italy and it was fun. It's something we wouldn't try back in Florence. There weren't many cars and only a few buses. With such great weather, I'm sure everyone was at the beach.

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We took the crowded #82 vaporetto from Accademia to Lido. After being cramped on the vaporetto for about 30 minutes, we arrived. I jumped in the first and only taxi waiting at the taxi station. I couldn't imagine us lugging our luggage for 10 minutes in the heat.

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Living in Florence :: Tourists and Art

Today we walked around the Dorsoduro area and visited the Guggenheim museum. I took a picture of it from the Accademia bridge (it's the flat white building on the right). We were able to look at Peggy Guggenheim's collection of modern art with works from Pollock, Klee, Pegeen, and many others. We even saw her grave in the museum's front garden.

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We arrived at 3:30PM on the Eurostar, which was more crowded than the last time we came. We walked outside and looked out at the canale, which was filled with boats passing by in each direction. Crowds of people were arriving at the station and more crowds were leaving the station.

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I've been holding myself back from making comments about the leather shops all over Florence. I'm not fond of people sitting outside on their scooters or standing outside smoking cigarettes, checking out all the tourists (mainly women) as they walk by.

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I went to an English bookstore in via dei Neri today and checked out a few tourist books and was happy to finally find one of Rick Steve's 2005 books. Almost every American tourist I see has at least one of his books. Last year, I read his suggestions for restaurants in Florence when we were in Milan and he mentioned a few restaurants that I've been too and enjoyed. So, I trusted his suggestions for Milan and was not disappointed.

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Today Dave and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie. It was playing in English at the Odeon theater near Piazza Repubblicca. It seems that every English-speaking tourist or resident of Florence goes there to see movies. There were a few British mothers who brought their bilingual children and a few tourists seeking shelter from the rain.

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Two nights and four baths later, we left Lucca this afternoon. We had a great time eating out and shopping. Our Bed & Breakfast was the greatest find. Each morning, they had a full buffet and also served us warm pastries and fresh fruit salad. They even offered to make any-style eggs and frittate (omelets) if we wanted.

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We did our usual touristy favorites: walked around town, visited a few monuments, sat down on an outside terrace for an afternoon snack (coffee and dessert), shopped a little, looked for gifts, and had dinner.

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After our short train ride from Florence, we hopped into the first taxi we saw. The taxi driver drove quickly through the narrow streets almost side-swiping a few tourists who were walking and looking at a map. And then we almost hit an elderly woman on her bicycle as she came out of a side street. The driver slammed on his breaks as we pulled up to a building and said, "Ecco ci qua." (Here we are.) I was relieved. I kept trying to look in front of him as if I could steer us from danger and lift his foot off the gas pedal somehow.

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I decided to fully exercise my right to see a doctor whenever I want. I called my friend Yoshie yesterday and told her that I finally signed up and chose her doctor as my family doctor. I told her that I wanted to go and meet her, hand in my card, and just get a checkup.

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This morning I went to La Posta (post office) to pay for my health care. I feel like I go to La Posta more than I'd like. Most of the time people who work there seem to be just counting the minutes until they leave. Today, one woman just sat at her computer and stared out at the crowd. She didn't help anyone except one man that came up to her. We all looked around at each other trying to understand what just happened as we sat there looking at the numbers in our hand.

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I normally cut it a little close when I go to the market these days. I seem to fill up my mornings with writing and reading. So, I end up going to the market late at around 1PM or later. Since it closes at 2PM, I just make my way around to my ortolana (fruit and vegetable vendor) and then go inside. The outside areas usually close earlier because they have to take everything away somewhere.

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We do everything right: we have screens on the windows that we open, we don't have any windows open after the sun goes down, and we turn on the mosquito repellent. Despite our best efforts, a few manage to come inside the house.

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