by Melinda Gallo

Today was not a day we wanted to be outside. It was a little cloudy and windy and the temperature was around 0°C. I met Dave on Ponte Vecchio this afternoon and we went looking for a restaurant to have lunch. It was so cold that when we saw a small scarf vendor, we decided to buy ourselves scarves. There were two American girls looking at all the scarves, picking through them one by one and asking the price of each one.

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My friend Marta and I went walking around town today, but it was absolutely freezing outside. I took her to my favorite chocolate place where they serve little hot chocolates. I ordered mine with peperoncino as usual. It's spicy, but so good. Who would've thought that a little red pepper could be so good with chocolate. Marta tried it and loved it too! It's nice when I'm able to share something I love with someone and they like it too.

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I'm not one to go for a doctor’s visit much since I normally just go the homeopathic route. But, I actually heard about a gynecologist who was also a homeopathic doctor. Back in the US, it's quite rare. Normally, a doctor is a doctor and a homeopathic doctor is a homeopathic doctor. They seem to not mix as well back home.

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Some people think my accent is a little French and others don't think so. I can't really tell that much; however, I do know that once in awhile I'll say a word with a French twang. Instead of saying, "documentazione" where the "men" is pronounced the same as in English, I'll say "mawn" (rhyming with lawn). And thus, my French accent shines through. I'm not French, but I speak it fluently, lived in Paris for 6 years and majored in French Literature in college.

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Many people in Florence took last week off for La Befana, which was January 6th. A lot of my friends were out of town until this last weekend. Even in the streets, you can see the difference: the buses are packed, the grocery stores busy, and just more people on the street walking around.

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I joined the gym yesterday and decided to start going today. It felt so wonderful to be back. It wasn't that busy, which is what I expected, since people won't start coming back to the gym until Monday.

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I know better and yet I still make the mistake. I head out of the house after lunch to go to a store and it's closed. I look at the plastic sign with four clocks with the minute and hour signs to see when the store opens and closes in the morning, then opens again and closes again in the evening.

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I don't remember previous New Years in Italy. Only one in Paris on the Champs-Elysées where some drunk French guy ran up to me and wanted to kiss me on the lips and we ended up on the pavement with my elbow in his face and his arm around my waist.

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Well, after being here a month and a half there are a few things I miss now. A few things I am beginning to miss. And still others I will always miss.

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After going to the Questura to pick up our permessi di soggiorno, we decided to hop on the bus and go to Le Cascine for the once a week outdoor market where you can buy everything from clothes and kitchenware items to fabrics and pets. It's one of these places where cash is king. And when you come, be ready to buy. You can buy absolutely anything here and usually at a lower price than at any shop in town. Although I haven't done any price comparisons, it always feels like a bargain.

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I feel like all I do is go shopping for food. I love fresh food and that is definitely one reason to going all the time. But the other reason, which is probably even more important, is that our fridge is the size of the one that I used to have in my dorm room in college.

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Today Dave and I went to Simone's restaurant "Il Canapone" near Santo Spirito for Christmas lunch. We woke up late and walked here in the overcast and cold Winter day. The streets were quiet with hardly anyone around.

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Each time we get invited to someone's place for dinner, we buy chocolates at this little place called "Vestri" at the end of Borgo degli Albizi. I noticed that they sell hot chocolates, but normally we come before going out to dinner and could never get one. Finally, during our holiday window shopping, we decided to stop by and try it.

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I went to the Paperback Exchange in via Fiesolana today. I've walked past it a few times and finally decided to make a trip to see the books they have. They have an extensive collection of books in English, like tour guides, writer's accounts on life in Tuscany/Italy, university text books, translated texts of Italian writers, and many used books of all types.

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We got invited to Alberto's apartment for a "cena toscana" (Tuscan meal) with lampredotto (a Florentine tripe dish) and trippa alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style tripe). It was Dave's first time to eat tripe and probably his last.

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