by Melinda Gallo

For my last run of the year, I decided that I would run up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. I havenít been up there in many weeks and was looking forward to seeing my beloved city from above. Many times in the last two weeks, I have looked up at the Christmas tree in the corner closest to the city, which is lit up every night. I was excited when I woke up this morning because I knew that I would finally realize my running goal for the last day of the year.

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On the second to the last day of the year, I sprung from bed at 6:30am and headed straight to the window of our apartment. Nothing startled me awake, but I felt a strong desire to watch the sun rise. To the West, the sky was a dark blue almost black and to the East, just above the rooftops of the neighboring buildings, the sky was a lighter blue. A few dark clouds hung in the sky outlined in a lighter grey. The Arno was a glossy black with white cones of light reflected from the street lamps. As I gazed at the sky from East to West, I noticed how it was slowly becoming an even split between light and dark.

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After my morning run along the Arno on Tuesday, I stood in the opened area across from the Cellini statue to stretch out. I looked out toward San NiccolÚ and let the sun soak through my clothes to warm me up. I shut my eyes because the light reflecting from the Arno was so strong. While I stood on the Ponte Vecchio again today after my run, the city seemed completely different. The sun was shining behind wispy, grey clouds and the air was crisp.

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Christmas morning in Florence is a dream. The sun had been up at least an hour before me and the city was already glowing against the light blue sky. The streets were was quiet with not a single car or motorino passing by. I could hear church bells ringing in the distance and birds chirping as they flew overhead. I only saw a couple of people strolling down the lungarno when I looked out of our windows.

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I just returned from Paris last night where I worked for two weeks. I wonít be returning until January so that I can spend the holidays at home in Florence. This last trip was a time for me to reflect on this last year. Itís remarkable that how the year started and how it ended were so different and unexpected. Back in January, I wrote of learning to go with the flow. At the time, I was talking about the flow of Florence and how the city is always changing. Little did I know that only a few weeks later, I would be embarking on a change that now has me straddling my life between two cities.

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Iíve been wanting to walk around my beloved city, take in her beauty, and admire the changes sheís going through every day this week. I was only able to do a little of that when I went for my morning runs, but it wasnít enough. With the sun coming up around 7am and setting around 5pm, the days were short and dense. I was only able to walk around at night and admire the addobbi natalizi (Christmas decorations). I was eager to see the lights hanging across the streets, strung between buildings. I even strolled through Piazza Santa Croce to check out the annual mercato tedesco (German market), but was a little disappointed to find out that the giostra (merry-go-round) didnít make it here too.

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