by Melinda Gallo

Change is positive

Living in Florence has taught me one important lesson: change is positive. Everything and everyone is changing all the time. Sometimes itís happening at a fast pace while at other times at a much slower pace, but nothing stays the same. In Florence, I have experienced changes, both big and small: moving apartments, divorcing, changing professions, beginning/completing writing projects, and meeting new friends and letting go of others. I have learned that you canít hold onto anything and when you try, it is thrust out of your grip anyway.

The street near my apartment is a good example of how things change. On via dei Neri, I have seen shops, restaurants, and bars open and close at an astounding rate over the years. I notice it even more when I go away for a couple of weeks. Upon returning, I walk by a place of business and then am stunned that it wasnít what was there the last time I walked by.

Initially, there was the wave of kebab places, then came the gelaterie (ice cream shops), and now the paninoteche (sandwich shops). The street has become so transformed by this latest wave that I now fondly refer to the street as via dei Panini. The lines of people in front of the paninoteche is so long that they spill out onto the street and block cars and pedestrians from passing.

Only a handful of the businesses on via dei Neri have remained the same over the last seven years. However, a few weeks ago, my ortolano (fruit and vegetable vendor) Michelangelo informed me that he was closing his business after 20 years. I stood there speechless. Iíve been going to his shop ever since I moved into the neighborhood. He always greets me with a bright smile and we talk about everything from the weather to calcio (football) and to our vacations and families. Michelangelo has become a good friend of mine that sometimes I would just stop by and chat with him.

Michelangelo taught me a lot about fruits and vegetables. He always steered me in the right direction by suggesting that I buy a fruit or vegetable because it was at the end of the season or wait a little bit longer so that I could buy the frutta e verdure nostrali (home-grown fruit and vegetables), which basically meant from Tuscany.

Upon leaving his shop, I went back to my apartment with my bag of fresh fruits and vegetables and thought how it would most likely be the last time I bought anything from him. I felt so nostalgic that the next day I went back to take photos of him and the shop. Iíve never done anything like that before, but there was something about his shop that I wanted to forge into my memory.

I am happy, however, to see that Michelangelo is serene about this major change. It will be odd for me to not go to his place and purchase all the seasonal goodies every day. I know it will be as if something is missing on via dei Neri for me.

Earlier this year, I found out that Michelangeloís son had a new football coach who turned out to be my friendís husband. At the time, I wasnít concerned with not staying connected with him, but now I know we wonít lose touch with each other.

I know good things will come his way and that he is just entering a new chapter of his life, which is exciting for him. Iíll miss talking with him and seeing his Neapolitan mother who helped him out sometimes in the shop. No matter how affected I am by the closing of his shop, I just have to remember what Florence has taught me: change is positive. Who knows what life has in store for him and for via dei Neri? Itíll be interesting to see how things develop.

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