by Melinda Gallo

Before leaving for Paris yesterday, I felt a little anxious about my trip. It wasnít that I didnít want to go to Paris, but I felt I hadnít enjoyed my beloved city enough before taking off again. I had time to meet up with friends and catch quick glimpses of the city, but I wasnít able to stroll the streets, take many photos, or enjoy the beginning of spring in Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Reaching out

Earlier this week, a dear friend had suggested that we walk up to San Miniato on Saturday morning. After a few rainy and then sunny days, yesterday ended up being overcast. I was excited to visit San Miniato because I hadnít gone there in at least a year. After enjoying a cappuccino and pasta (pastry), we walked under the large wooden doorway of the ancient mura (wall) and made our way to the stairs. We hiked up the wide stone steps, leading up the hill to Piazzale Michelangiolo.

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Living in Florence :: Celebrating 150 years of unification

In less than two weeks, the Italians organized a festa (holiday) that they have never celebrated before today. On March 17, 1861, Italy was unified. Most countries would have celebrated that festa every year, but in Italy no one has ever declared it a national festa. And even though it is festa today. It will not be next year. Most Florentines I know arenít enthusiastic about the unification of Italy or this festa. They, like most Italians, identify themselves first from the city where they come from and then the country. My friends are Florentines first and Italians second.

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I returned to a rainy city after my two-week stay in Paris. I havenít been out much to see the city, but I do watch the Arno with great joy. Its color is now a light brown and the level is getting higher by the hour. The one thing I have done since my return is meet up with my Florentine friends. After my nostalgic Sunday in Paris, I was happy that on Monday morning I could go to via dei Neri to say hello to all my negozianti (shopkeepers) with whom I have become friends with over the years.

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Living in Florence :: Last morning in Paris

Before heading back to Florence this afternoon, I decided to have breakfast at Angelinaís. I hadnít yet been during my two trips to Paris this year. Every time I have visited Paris in the past, I have always made my way there. Their hot chocolate is world-renowned, and I couldnít wait to enjoy it. I have walked by a few times to check it out, but the line to get a seat was usually long. I was pleased when I arrived this morning to find that there was no line at all.

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After being in Paris almost two weeks, I have realized some things are different for me here. When I'm in Paris, I tend to make choices with my head; however when Iím in Florence, I tend to make them with my heart. I try to always choose what feels right to me, which may of course not always be logical, but when Iím in Paris I feel as if I can cut through my emotions more. I wonder if they are just clearer when Iím in Paris or if they are fewer.

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Another change occurred in my life a month ago: I made the decision to discontinue my Expats in Florence column. Today, in fact, the last article I wrote will be published. It was not an easy choice for me to make, but one that feels right to me. I enjoyed meeting so many expats, interviewing them, and writing about them; however, after two years, I didnít feel that same passion I had when I started. I felt I had done exactly what I wanted to accomplish with the column, and was pleased to let it go.

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While I am in Paris, Italian begins and ends my day, I speak French during the day, and write in English. I talk to myself in a mix of languages though. Sometimes, Iím not even sure which language Iím using. Here itís mostly French and some English while when Iím in Florence, itís a mix of Italian and English. When I was learning Italian initially, I would always speak to myself in Italian. I found it an effective way for me to immerse myself in the language. I find it a little more challenging to juggle three languages than when Iím juggling only two. Usually, my brain divides them into "my" language and "foreign" language.

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Living in Florence :: Writing in St. Germain-en-Laye

My returning to Paris for longer periods of time has brought me many gifts. Whatís interesting is that I never did choose Paris, just like I never really chose Florence. I was hired to work in Paris, even though I wanted to return to Lyon where I studied for one year. And with Florence, I was told it was the only place in Italy where I could learn Italian without having to contend with a dialect.

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Since the beginning of the year, many things in my life have changed. I might be an odd duck, but I embrace change. Florence fosters change and doesn't allow me to be stagnant even if I tried. I have learned to welcome change because no matter how painful it might have been to change, so many gifts arrived. Fortunately, my private life (my husband, my family, and friends) is the part that is calmer right now.

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