by Melinda Gallo

Two friends of ours arrived on Saturday afternoon from California and we've been enjoying great dinners accompanied with fantastic wines. It has been a wonderful treat for us to go out with Jack because he has so much knowledge about wines. I have even begun to like white wines now.

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My two favorite cities. They are so different and yet I love them both equally. Paris is "grandiose" while Florence is understated. Paris is big while Florence is small. However, they do have similarities, like the abundance of culture, art, theatre, and nightlife.

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Today I was outside walking in the rain and I saw what the tourists do now when it rains. Many of them were huddled under doorways with and without umbrellas. They were looking up at the Santa Croce church, usually with a guide book or map in hand, from the other side of the piazza. It was odd to see them all together as if getting wet would somehow harm them.

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This morning we went to the gym and the sky looked a little menacing. Dark grey clouds were sparse, but still not leaving fast enough. We were planning on taking a day trip with our friends to Lucca today, but that ended up getting canceled because of rain.

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We went to our friend Stef's dance recital at Stazione Leopolda last night; her last one in Italy before she heads back to New York this month. Once we were let out of the curtained area where the performance took place, people just came pouring into this renovated train station. I forgot how many people go out on a Saturday night to night clubs, bars, and discos. And Stazione Leopolda is all three on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Today I realized how many differences there are between living in California and living here. Many of these things seem normal to me now, but still I find them interesting to mention. When I look at the differences, some seem minute while others seem much greater than they really are.

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Instead of going for sushi for dinner tonight as planned, we were invited to eat dinner with our American friends who live here and who are leaving in a few weeks to go back to New York. Dave and I are both sad that they're leaving Florence. We have shared some great moments together, like going to Venice.

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For the last 3 years I have avoided this holiday. I looked away when I saw the cards in the grocery store, the signs in all the shop windows, and the advertisements in all the magazines. With my mom not here, I've felt it was just one more reminder each year that she was no longer with me. So this year, I decided to treat today a bit differently.

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I went to the erboristeria (herbalist's shop) today to pick up some natural remedies a friend of mine told me to get for my eczema. I ordered them on Monday and the woman told me to come back on Friday afternoon. The shop was already closed when I arrived, so I had to go back this morning.

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I do so many things almost on auto-pilot here nowadays without even thinking twice. I go to many places, like the market, the cleaner's, the post office (to pay bills and to buy stamps), the gym, and most stores and am able to communicate properly. Today was different; I went to the sarta (seamstress) to have her make some drapes for me.

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This morning it was raining when I woke up. I thought it was going to be a melancholic day, but then within a few hours, the sky cleared up and the sun came out. I decided to seize the day while the sun was out. I'd been staying at home a lot since Dave left, not really wanting to or needing to go out.

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Living overseas has many advantages, but the greatest inconvenience is receiving bad news about loved ones. I received an email this morning that my grandmother had passed away yesterday afternoon. There's no other way for me to find out except by email or phone. I'm happy it was an email where I felt that I could react naturally without trying to hold myself together on the phone.

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Today I woke up to a blaring television. It sounded like Sunday mass and I think I heard the new pope speak for the first time. Most Sundays I can hear mass a little bit, but because one of the windows in our apartment was open, it sounded like it was coming from our TV.

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This morning I decided to venture out and go to the market. Saturday morning is probably the worst time ever to go, but because Dave was going to leave for a week to Germany, I decided to get myself some things that Dave doesn't eat, like melanzane (eggplant), pancetta (bacon), and pesce (fish).

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With the past few weeks of capricious weather, I think that summer has finally arrived. Every day we didn't know whether to wear a jacket, to bring an umbrella, or to take our sunglasses when we went out. But, now I think the weather has changed for good.

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