by Melinda Gallo

It's been raining since we got back to Florence. The day starts out a little gray, but then begins to rain from lunch until the evening without interruption. I don't think I've bought an umbrella in years. I usually don't use one when walking around downtown and generally wear a hat to keep somewhat dry.

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We signed back up at the gym today. We really have no excuse to not go since it is only a few blocks away. The gym itself is only about three times the size of our apartment, but it's clean, not crowded, and very close. Of course, we go at 10AM when not many people are there.

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I planned for us to take the train back to Florence so that we could see the countryside between Munich and Florence. We went through Austria and stopped in Innsbruck and then later in Verona (Italy). The scenery was quite diverse, mostly mountainous, little to a lot of snow, and a few small villages/towns.

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Living in Florence :: No shopping on Sundays

We were supposed to meet Marco at an Asian restaurant (that said they had Chinese, Thai, Japanese, etc. food), but I didn't feel good enough to go probably after all that alcohol in my warm drinks yesterday! So, this morning when we got up, we decided to go for brunch and meet him there.

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Living in Florence :: More adventures in Munich

Today, we woke up at 7AM and decided to go for a walk while the sun was finally shining outside. It's the first time since we arrived on Wednesday that we've seen the sun. We had coffees at a chain of coffee shops, called "San Francisco Coffee," and then we went to a little grocery store to get some still water, of which there was none, and to walk past the Bavarian National Museum (pictured here) and the English Garden.

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Living in Florence :: Only one pretzel, not two!

After breakfast at our hotel in Oberschlei▀heim, we took a taxi to our other hotel in Munich (in the Lehel) area. We assumed the taxi would be expensive since the taxi we took from the airport to the hotel was around 40 Euros. We were happily surprised to find out that the taxi only cost us 22 Euros. We immediately walked outside in the snow and went directly downtown to get clothes for the snow. We were not prepared for snowy sidewalks and a chilly breeze.

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We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Italy for obvious reasons, but it's no reason to break a tradition to take one day to remember what we're thankful for. We absolutely know how fortunate we are to be living in such a beautiful city and doing our jobs as we did in the US. We still can't believe that we've been living in Florence for a year now.

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This morning we took off on a flight to Munich. I was kept up all night by the strong winds and hoping that they'd die down before we got on our plane. No luck. We all sat on the plane as it moved in every direction as if we were experiencing turbulence except we weren't even moving.

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Living in Florence :: One more year!

What else would we want to be doing on a cold Monday morning? We were jet lagged and already awake at 7AM, so we figured we'd get ready, call a taxi, and go to the questura to pick up our permessi di soggiorno (permits to stay).

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The weather was cool and sunny in Florence this weekend. Cool being any place the sun didn't shine. We were planning on going out a bit, but our afternoon naps to recover from jet lag turned into half a night's sleep!

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Living in Florence :: First trip around town

For the first time since we got back, Dave and I took a walk around the town. We walked past Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, and Ponte Vecchio. We were both surprised how few people were outside. The tourists seemed to be sparse and we only saw one group of Japanese tourists. When we left in October, the streets were still filled with tourists. Today, we were able to walk around without bumping into anyone.

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Today, we woke up earlier. At least it was before noon. I went straight to the living room and decided after two full days of being back, it was time to put everything away. Looking at my many stacks of books on the coffee table, I realized that I did pack a lot of books. The one thing I did realize while organizing everything was that our magazines were fewer, but heavier.

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Dave woke up at 10AM, while I didn't wake up until 1PM. It felt good to sleep, but I still don't feel rested yet. I walked into the living room to see all of our suitcases opened and partially emptied onto the couch. Clothes, books, papers, and cables were strewn all over. I was too tired to deal with any of it, so I went to my desk on the other side of the apartment to hide.

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We got on our flight in San Francisco at 2PM and settled into our seats with two full bags of magazines, our new PowerBooks with a few movies we copied onto them, and my video iPod onto which I downloaded a few new shows, like Lost and Desperate Housewives. Thanks to Apple, we can now pay $1.99 for each episode to download.

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It's always hard to say goodbye. We've been in the US for almost 5 weeks and we got so used to seeing our family and friends and now it's time for us to leave again. We have been asked many times how we like living in Italy and what it's like. But, after being in the US for so long, we almost forgot ourselves. It just seems so far away to us now.

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Living in Florence :: Child care tag team

Today our niece had the day off so Dave and I got to take care of her all day. She woke me up at 7AM so that we could build a gingerbread house together. Her mom bought a kit on Sunday and we decided that she and I would build it together. She has been so excited all week and finally this morning, she was allowed to begin the art project with me.

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I packed all the books I got out of storage and added the ones that I bought and put them in a suitcase. I was thinking about sending them as a friend of mine who lives in Australia suggested, but I just couldn't part with any of them for the 1-3 months it takes to receive them.

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Costco is so enticing. You shop around a huge warehouse where you can buy 10 of something you normally only buy 1 of. Of course, you will use it. You may not need it, but you figure you must be getting a bargain if it's at Costco, so why not get more? It's a great idea until we begin packing our luggage.

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One reason for us to drive up to Rocklin (about 100 miles from Los Gatos, CA) was to get our annual dental check-up. I lived in Europe for 10 years and have never seen a dentist there. I'm afraid of non-American dentists. Maybe for no reason, but I'm generally fearful of the possible pain and the possible low dose of anesthetics.

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We woke up early to get a head start on our trip back to the Bay Area. I finally got my first Jamba Juice since I've been here and enjoyed every last drop of it. We loved the hotel we stayed at in Universal City where we had exceptional views of Universal Studios and of the "Valley."

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