by Melinda Gallo

The one thing that I've had a hard time to get used to is bargaining. I read that no matter what price they tell you, you should only pay about 25% of that. I went into a shop to look at a sun dress and I asked the woman how much it was. She picked up a calculator and punched in "300." To pay six Euros for a sun dress isn't that much, but I assumed that if I'm supposed to only pay 75 bhat (about 1.50 Euro), I should try to bargain a little bit.

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Living in Florence :: Eating food from the stands

All up and down the main street that takes us from our hotel to the beach and then along the beach, there are stands that make and sell food. These stands are attached to scooters that they use to transport the stand in and out of its parked location on the street.

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Before leaving for Thailand I talked to my sister who had been there before many years ago. She said that I should do two things while in Thailand: get a Thai massage and ride an elephant. On our first evening in Thailand last Wednesday, we decided that we deserved a massage after our long flight.

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Living in Florence :: Phi Phi Islands tour

Last night when we were out for our after-dinner stroll, we stopped off at one of the many tour agencies to book something for today. We chose a Phi Phi Islands tour so we could visit a few of the islands and go snorkeling. A driver of an air-conditioned van arrived a few minutes before 8:30 a.m. this morning at our hotel to pick us up. We brought a zaino (backpack) with our sunscreen and change of clothes and were taken to a few other hotels to pick up some more passengers.

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Living in Florence :: Railay beach

We decided to go to Railay beach, which is the second beach south of Ao Nang, today by long-tail boat. The beach in Ao Nang is nice, but we wanted to visit a nearby beach. We walked to the ticket booth and bought two roundtrip tickets for Railay beach. The cost per person was 160 bhat, which is a little more than 3 Euros.

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Living in Florence :: From Florence to Krabi

At 7 a.m. when we left our apartment to catch a train to Rome, the temperature was 2C (36F). And after a ten-hour flight, we arrived in Bangkok where the temperature at 6 a.m. was already 33C (92F). I was surprised by how modern, immense, and clean the Bangkok airport was especially after leaving Fiumicino airport in Rome. Before leaving Italy, we had a hard time finding anything to eat and settled on an autogrill (roadside cafe) inside the airport.

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I have been so excited about my first trip to Thailand that I haven't been able to contain myself these past few weeks. Alessandro and I are going on our luna di miele (honeymoon) today for two weeks. I'm even happier to be going toward the warm weather because the last few weeks have been cold and wet. I know that I will miss my beloved city, which is why I was so eager to snap a few photos yesterday, but I am looking forward to discover an entirely different place.

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Living in Florence :: Florence at dusk

After too many days without much sunshine, I was happy when I saw the sun break through the clouds early this evening while I was working on my computer. We had some nevischio (sleet) and pioggia (rain) most of the day. Even though the temperatures are low enough for it to snow in Florence, I bundled myself up, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door.

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Living in Florence :: Pasqua bassa

This year Pasqua (Easter) came early, which they say is bassa. The weather has been rather cold and wet, and Spring feels quite far away. At 9 a.m. this morning, Alessandro and I headed outside so that we could go to the Duomo to watch the Scoppio del carro (Explosion of the cart), which is an old tradition in Florence on Pasqua. I had been in Florence a total of five years and never once made it out to see the carro, so I was even more excited.

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I've been wanting to introduce a few of my expat amiche (girlfriends) with each other for a long time. Because of my work schedule, I have only been able to see one amica at a time for a caff in the morning or on Saturdays at short notice. I finally decided to organize a small aperitivo (aperitif) with a few girlfriends. I had planned to do it with another amica, but she went away for the weekend with her fidanzato (boyfriend). We were supposed to be eleven, but in the end there were seven of us.

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Living in Florence :: Museo Horne

I had read about the Museo Horne in a guidebook and was surprised when I found out that it was on via dei Benci. The museo (museum) is only around the block from our place. I had walked past the palazzo (building) many times since I moved to our new apartment back in August. This morning I decided to go on another cultural date with myself and picked the Museo Horne.

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I have been fortunate to meet many American expats here in Florence through friends of mine as well as through my blog. When I spoke to some of the women that I have recently met, I suddenly remembered how difficult it is to meet new people in the beginning. I remember when I first arrived and how sad and alone I felt in my new city. I loved Florence, but I felt that I had no one to share my new experiences with and no one who could help me to understand the culture and the city better.

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My suocero (father-in-law)'s birthday was yesterday, but because the Fiorentina (the soccer team in Florence) was playing against Everton in the UEFA Cup, he wanted to postpone his birthday dinner. When I called my suocero to wish him a happy birthday, I said, "Spero che la Fiorentina ti dar un bel regalo oggi! (I hope the Fiorentina will give you a beautiful gift today!)" He laughed, but in the end they did because they won 4-2 and are onto the quarterfinals.

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Living in Florence :: Museo di San Marco

I must have walked by the San Marco church hundreds of times and said to myself that I must take a tour of the Museo di San Marco someday. The more permanent my stay is here, the more difficult it is to go to museums and other places to visit. So, this morning I made a cultural date with myself and was out of the house at 8:30 a.m. to go to the museo (museum) for a visit.

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Last night my friend Sarah called me to ask me to accompany her to the corte d'appello (court of appeal) while she went before the giudice di pace (Justice of the Peace) to appeal her case. Because she has a 10-month-old baby and could easily be distracted, she wanted someone who would listen along with her in case something went amiss.

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Sunday is the day that I go to my in-laws' house for lunch. I usually get ready by gathering all the containers I received from the Sunday before that were filled with food so that I can return them to my suocera (mother-in-law). I leave the house around 12:30 p.m. and can never wait to get there.

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I was happy to find out that the festa della donna (International Women's Day) was on a Saturday this year. I was invited to a friend's house for a small gathering, but it was cancelled the day before. In the end, my friend Haruko decided to have a small dinner at her place with a few of her girlfriends and me.

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I was disappointed when I opened the persiane (shutters) outside our apartment windows to find out that the temperatures had dropped again. After a sunny and fairly mild weekend, today it's grey, cold and rainy. This past weekend, the temperatures were about 18C (64F), but have now tumbled to 2C (35F). This is the second time that our weather has gone from almost spring to winter again in just a matter of a few days.

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Living in Florence :: Elektra

There have been a lot of perks from my writing my blog like meeting people, exchanging emails with some very interesting and sweet people, getting interviewed, and building new relationships. But one other unexpected perk was being invited to attend the opera Elektra at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino by one of the opera singers, the soprano Christine Goerke. She was reading my blog while she's been here in Florence for the show and emailed me.

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This morning I was awoken by a scossa (jolt) at 8:43 a.m., which turned out to be a terremoto (earthquake). I immediately called Alessandro who said he didn't feel anything. I tried to look at the local news on-line, but couldn't find anything about the terremoto. And then an hour later, I felt an aftershock and I knew for sure that I wasn't mistaken.

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