by Melinda Gallo

Rainy but joyful return to Florence

I returned to a rainy city after my two-week stay in Paris. I havenít been out much to see the city, but I do watch the Arno with great joy. Its color is now a light brown and the level is getting higher by the hour. The one thing I have done since my return is meet up with my Florentine friends. After my nostalgic Sunday in Paris, I was happy that on Monday morning I could go to via dei Neri to say hello to all my negozianti (shopkeepers) with whom I have become friends with over the years.

I missed my friends too, but we try to stay connected through email or phone calls. With my friends, the negozianti, we only see each other if I go to their negozio (shop). When I am home, I pop by their negozi all the time even if I donít have to buy anything. I talk with one woman and her husband every day, and sometimes more than once a day. We talk about everything from the city, the culture, its history, language, news, and even soccer.

When I walked into their negozio yesterday morning, my friend ran around the counter to kiss me hello. I was just as happy to see her as she was to see me. ďBentornata! (Welcome back!)Ē she said. She was happy that I had a good time, but looked relieved when I told her that I wouldnít move to Paris full-time.

After leaving her shop, I went to see my ortolano and his mother. They too welcomed me back with great warmth and sincerity. My ortolano asked me if I wanted to grab a coffee with him, but unfortunately I had an appointment to run to.

I donít mind leaving my beloved city for extended periods of time as much any more especially if my return is so heartwarming. I have such a wonderful connection with my friends that, regardless of the distance and time that may separate us, is always strong.

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