by Melinda Gallo

After having set our clocks back this last Sunday, I now feel as if spring has finally arrived. The days feel longer now that the sun comes up later and stays up longer. This morning when I woke up at 7 am, I looked out the window and saw the long shadow off the Ponte alle Grazie on the banks of the Arno. I was pleased to see the city glowing in a warm orange and pink. Spring certainly suits Florence.

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My morning runs are a special time for me to connect with my beloved city and find more things about it that I appreciate. Yesterday, I ran away from the city center toward Ponte da Verrazzano. What struck me was that after crossing Ponte di San NiccolÚ, I looked around me and noticed that I couldíve been almost anywhere in Italy. Along the sidewalk I was running on, there was a small giardino (garden) to my right with the Arno below it and six-story apartment buildings on my left with shops on the ground floor. When I crossed the Ponte da Verrazzano to run back home, I felt the same thing. It wasnít until I crossed Ponte di San NiccolÚ and had a clear view of the top of the Duomo that I felt I was in Florence.

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The first thing I do on my first Saturday back in Florence is shop for groceries on via dei Neri. Not just because Iím eager to get my hands on some local produce and favorite Tuscan delicacies, but also because I get to reconnect with all the shopkeepers who have become good friends of mine. While I am away, my marito buys groceries and they always ask about me and tell him to make sure he says hello to me. Iíve sent them postcards and brought back pensierini (little gifts) from Paris. They rarely take breaks from work and seem to enjoy hearing about my travels.

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When I first started going to Paris, I would leave on Saturday afternoon. After a few trips, I discovered that my weekend was cut in half. I rushed around Paris to have brunch somewhere and then headed to the airport. I wouldnít arrive in Florence until the early evening and then I would eat and go to bed. Nowadays, I leave Paris in the evening, have dinner with my marito (husband) and wake up to my beloved city. I love flying into Florence at night when the entire city glows a light orange. Sometimes I can spot a few monuments, but most of the time I just try to grab the entire view with my eyes.

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I would never say that Iím living a double life, but at times it does feel that way. When Iím home in Florence, Paris seems so far away and when Iím in Paris, Florence does. My running has allowed me to not feel as uprooted as I did in the beginning when I would hop between the two cities. I definitely have two different lives depending on whether Iím in Paris or Florence.

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It is exciting to change countries and languages as Iím doing now: two weeks home in Florence and two weeks in Paris. But at times it can be exhausting too. After an entire year of going back and forth, I have become used to my life straddled between two countries. I am also discovering great benefits with each trip; great gifts that come with not being completely settled in any one place. One of the greatest gifts is that Iím able to appreciate the changes occuring all around me, mostly in regards to the weather and the environment.

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On my run along the Arno this morning, I almost had to stop right before the Ponte Santa Trinita. A pang of sadness washed over me. In that moment, I came to the realization that I would be taking off again in only a few hours. I just returned to Florence late Friday night, spent a wonderful day taking in my beloved city, visiting with my family, and having dinner with friends.

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After working in Paris at the beginning of February and going on vacation at the end of February, I spent only six days in Florence last month. I enjoyed my time away, but I am so happy to be back in Florence. The first thing I did when I arrived was take in a deep breath. I missed the smell of the city most of all. I could always see pictures of the city, imagine myself walking the streets, but I couldnít reproduce its smell. I canít describe it exactly because it is a mix of odors that is certainly unique to Florence.

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