by Melinda Gallo

I've told everyone that my 6-year old niece JJ is coming to visit us here in Florence. It'll be her first trip to Europe ever! Of course, she's not coming alone, she's bringing her parents too. It has been planned for quite a while and each time I talk to her on the phone she asks me when we're going to see each other again. "Soon," I always say.

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Dave and I stayed in yesterday. Neither one of us felt that great. As soon as I tell my friends that I'm not feeling well, the first question each one asks me is, "Che temperatura hai?" (What temperature do you have?) They think I'm nuts because I didn't have a thermometer until recently. I just know when I feel good and when I don't. I didn't need a thermometer to figure it out for me.

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Some days I can be doing one of the most mundane of things, like washing the dishes, and there's a tug at my heart. It whispers to me and when I don't pay attention, it begins to yell. Memories of my mom flood my head. Memories of the last time she travelled to visit me when I was living in Florence back in 1998. Three years of memories before she passed come to me in an instant.

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I decided to make nice with the girls at the lavanderia (dry cleaner's) today. I've been wanting to go back and say something instead of walking out without looking back, like I did the last time. I finally decided, after much procrastination, to go to the lavanderia today.

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Well, today is the most perfect of days! We woke up to beautiful sunshine (which isn't unusual), but the air was mildly cool instead of bitterly cold. I sat outside for the first time today on the terrace to write. I closed my eyes and sat there facing the sun. It quickly warmed me up from the inside out.

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I don't even think about it much any more. I switch languages all the time depending on who I'm talking with. Most of what I do at home is in English. And then, I answer the phone or go outside and everything changes: I speak only in Italian.

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Normally I go to the mercato alone. I go to the same vendors and do my shopping. Today, Marta wanted me to show her around. She doesn't live near the market and doesn't know which places are good to buy things at. I've had a few months to learn the hard way. I buy things at one vendor and taste them. If they're good, I go back, if not, I don't.

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Instead of my usual brisk walk through the piazza to get to where I want to go, I decided to sit on one of the cement benches on the sunny side of the piazza. Instead of looking at the church and the surrounding buildings, I watched the people.

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People often ask me where I come from. I have learned not to say, "American" because they usually assume South American. So, I tell them jokingly, "Sono Californiana...non si vede?" (I'm Californian, can't you tell?). When I said that the other day at the market, a guy responded, "Hai perso la tua abbronzatura." (You lost your tan.)

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Living in Florence :: What a difference a week makes

Today, I walked through the Piazza di Santa Croce and saw people all over as if it were already Spring. Last week, with the snow, there was only one group of Japanese tourists huddled together walking briskly through the piazza. This week, there are people all over: kids on school trips, many different tour groups, and other people sitting on the steps in front of the church. It felt great to be outside in the sun where today's temperature is about 14C (about 57F). I almost wanted to stay outside and not come back home.

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As Marta's boyfriend drove us home from dinner last night through the narrow streets near Santo Spirito, people seemed to be everywhere. Mostly women out celebrating the Festa della donna (women's day) and men looking for a good time, which means going wherever the women are.

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Last night we went to dinner with our two friends Alberto and Adriana and they invited two more friends that we met for the first time, Irene and Marco. We met at a restaurant around the corner from our apartment, called "Il Francescano." Dave and I had been there before, but weren't that impressed.

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Living in Florence :: Fair-weathered tourists

The sun was shining brightly into our apartment this morning and made me want to get out. After breakfast I decided to take Dave up to La piazzale Michelangelo. Since we arrived back in November, we've only visited a few things downtown because the weather has been quite chilly. We were driven up to the piazzale once last year during our first trip to Florence, but today we decided to walk up.

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I have always been intrigued by nuns ever since I saw "The Flying Nun" on TV when I was a little girl. Here in Italy I have seen nuns mostly in churches and convents. The older nuns are usually Italian while the younger ones usually come from South America, India, and the Philippines.

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Living in Florence :: Snowing again?

Today instead of watching the snow from our apartment, I wanted to go out to take some pictures so I could remember what Florence looked like with snow. I quickly got dressed to go outside, putting on two scarves, gloves, and a hat.

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