by Melinda Gallo

Celebrating ten years in Florence

When I returned to Florence ten years ago today I wasnít certain that I would stay as long as I have. In my heart, I knew I didnít want to never leave, but I couldnít make such decisions alone. After my five-year hiatus in the US, I arrived in Florence accompanied by my then husband. I had never moved anywhere with anyone and I didnít know how the move would affect us. Over time, my life in Florence became more important to me than anything or anyone else.

Living in Florence :: Celebrating ten years in Florence

My life has changed drastically since I first arrived on that cold November afternoon. My heart has been stretched open even more than it was before even though it has been broken a few times. I have evolved immensely over these ten years and discovered more about who I am and about what my heart truly desires.

No one tells you when you move overseas just how much it will affect you. You might move to another place, expose yourself to another culture and customs, and express yourself in another language, but somehow you canít help but make other shifts as well. You are no longer who you were when you arrived no matter how long you stay. Your home (whether it was temporary or permanent) always has an affect on you.

You end up discovering what lies deep within you. You sort through what you want to keep and what you want to let go of. Little do you know it, but you are creating a new you. Itís an improved version of who you are somewhat like an upgrade.

In the last two years, I have also been living in Paris. Initially I didnít want to call Paris my home, but it happened gradually. I began working in Paris four years ago and initially only went for a few days a month. That job became more important and I also became involved with a Frenchman. When you receive great gifts, youíd be a fool for not accepting them fully.

Juggling the two homes has a few challenges. I have to constantly adjust to the different lifestyles, cultures, and languages. It isnít the large differences that are difficult to navigate, but rather the more subtle ones.

My time in Paris has allowed me to have more perspective on my life in Florence and also on the city itself. While I have always appreciated my beloved city, I see many of its qualities even clearer now. My connection to Florence has become even stronger. Itís not just something I know I have, but itís something I feel deep inside me. Itís obvious in how my body relaxes when I return to Florence, how my heart feels safe and secure, and also how my emotions just come and go like water against the shore. I feel a certain fluidity when I am in Florence. Everything just flows, not always easily, but like the Arno, the current is always moving even if we donít see it.

When I am in Florence, I become more of a dreamer, a lover, and an artist. It is a city that inspires and supports me to take notice of what surrounds me and to enjoy it.
It surprises me still; however, that I have been living in Florence for ten years. Itís the longest time Iíve lived anywhere in my adult life. On the other hand, it doesnít surprise me at all: Florence has become such a part of who I am that ten years doesnít seem that long at all.

Iím often asked if I would ever choose just one place to live and honestly if forced to make a choice I would choose Florence without hesitation. My beloved city encourages, motivates, inspires, and supports me all at the same time. It asks for nothing in return, but all I want to do is sing her praises, share her with others, and give back to her in some small way.

Paris may have been my first love, but Florence is my true love.

My only wish is that Florence continues to be a part of my life, that my heart keeps expanding, that I discover more about who I am, and that Iím able to enjoy my time in her embrace.

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