by Melinda Gallo

Do I miss Florence yet?

Before I left on my trip to the US, I was quite emozionata (emotional) about leaving my beloved city. I ran around town to see a few of my friends in the days before I left to say good-bye. It was quite difficult for me to see a few of my friends, so I ended up not seeing them all face-to-face. It sounded like forever when I told them that I'd be gone an entire month. I didn't want to dwell on my not being there as I really wanted to enjoy my time in the US.

The moment I arrived in California after our brief stint in London, I felt as if Florence was a world away. Somehow Florence was in the back of my mind, but my present surroundings quickly became more important to me. I used to dwell on the fact that I wasn't in Florence when I was away, but this time I feel almost relief in being back in the US. It is so easy to adjust to life here in the States because things seem much simpler and easier to me.

Living in Florence these past two years has become second nature to me and I forgot how different life is in Florence and in the US (the parts that I know like California and Colorado). I have adjusted to many of the customs in Florence and didn't notice how different things were until we arrived in the States.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in the US was how much space there is around me. It feels so nice to walk around knowing that I won't easily bump into someone else. And, if I do collide with someone else, we just smile at each other and excuse ourselves. In Florence, most people don't say anything if they bump into you; they just keep walking as if nothing happened. I don't believe that they think it's rude, it's just par for the course when walking around such crowded and busy streets.

Another thing I noticed was how convenient everything is. We went to a grocery store at 11PM and it felt like a dream. No one was around and the shelves were chock-full of products. There were also so many choices and varieties of everything here; aisles of drinks, canned goods, cereals, snack items, spices, and so much more. I forgot how spoiled we are here.

The most noticeable thing I have experienced is how polite and friendly the people are in the States. I'm not saying that the Florentines are not polite and friendly, but I will say that the level of politeness is much higher in the US. At the gym where I went to work out in the other day in Colorado, everyone I walked past who looked at me in the eyes smiled at me. It's not that they want to be my friend, but at least they acknowledged my presence and took one second to show some kindness to a stranger.

The Florentines and other non-Americans might say that the Americans are superficial, but I will say that most people working in the public must be. You can't be sincere and fully present with every person you come in contact with. But being kind to a stranger I don't feel is superficial, I feel it's being open.

One last thing that I must say I have forgotten was how great it feels to walk around and know I belong. I feel I belong in Florence until I happen upon someone who asks me where I'm from, what my origins are, how long I've lived in Florence, and when I'm going back. Maybe they are just trying to get to know me, but generally after they ask me all these questions that is the end of the discussion. They talk about the US as being my "home" as if it's not in Italy and I get a little frustrated because I consider Florence my home.

There are a few things I miss about being in Florence. I miss speaking Italian, I miss being able to walk around the downtown area to visit a few of my friends, I miss going out for an aperitivo or dinner with my friends, I miss walking past my favorite churches and monuments, I miss shopping at the mercato, and I miss just being in my beloved city. I truly miss the smell of Florence: the humid, city air, which I can't describe, but know it when I smell it.

There are, of course, things I don't miss in Florence like lugging my groceries many blocks and up two flights of stairs, dodging dog remains in the street, avoiding people who talk to me in the streets, having to walk everywhere even if I'm tired, and hearing people in their apartments when our apartment windows are open.

I don't think I miss Florence to the point of being sad about not being there because I feel like I take Florence with me wherever I go. I am enjoying my stay in the States and maybe because I know I will return in a few weeks to Florence, I just won't allow myself to miss it too much as it might take away from all that I'm experiencing now. And, it is a pleasure to be back in the States to be with my friends and family.

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