by Melinda Gallo

Connecting with the Florentines

I have undoubtedly let Florence into my heart and soul. My beloved city has touched me so profoundly that I have become a better person because of my living here. But it hasnít been just the city that has affected me, but also the people. I have always been rather friendly and open to meeting new people, but after being in Florence for the last ten years, I have realized that my friendliness was initially superficial and now it has deepened thanks to the Florentines.

Itís almost as if I have been cracked open like a shell that was holding deep inside a pearl. I donít think I was comfortable opening up completely because along with the pearl is also some ďnot so nice stuff.Ē I have learnt a lot about acceptance and appreciation while living in Florence. Not in the ďsounds like good ideaĒ way, but in a fully giving myself over to this way of being.

Each of my relationships with the Florentines I know started out casually and quite simply. I have met many people working in shops, bars, and restaurants in and around town. The more I frequented a place, the more we became friendly. I didnít become friends with everyone Iíve met, but with a handful I did.

What I enjoy about living in Florence is that when I encounter someone in the street whom I know, we say hello to each other. We donít avoid eye contact or pretend that we donít see each other; we acknowledge one another. It might be as simple as just, ďCiaoĒ or more engaging like, ďCiao, come stai? (Hi, how are you?)Ē

Itís not in the depth of the exchange that touches me, but in the humanness of it. I acknowledge you and you acknowledge me. We share a brief moment of kindness, offer a smile, and wish someone a nice day. Some might think that they are just words or polite formalities, but I know the Florentines, they are masters of sincerity.

Florence has taught me about being more sincere. It has taught me to connect, even if just for a moment, with a person I know and be present with him/her.

For the few people with whom I am friendlier, I am continually surprised by their kind interest in my life. Each time I return to Florence, they ask me how things are in Paris and also ask me about my beau. Each one has only met him maybe once or twice, but they ask not only about how he is, but when heís going to come back to Florence. I find it so touching that they want to enter into my life and not just share their own lives with me.

Even if we talk for only five or ten minutes, we always catch up and discuss what is really going on with us. Each time I come home, I connect with each one of them because they are like my close friends except we havenít always exchanged phone numbers or know each otherís last names.

I am grateful to the Florentines for having let me into their hearts because they are certainly in mine.

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