by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: To know Florence is to love Florence

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Florence. Even if you don't know me, itís fairly obvious. I not only write about living in Florence, but I also take pictures of the beauty around me in Florence. I donít love Florence just because of her apparent beauty; I love Florence because of how she makes me feel when I am here. Florence stirs up powerful emotions within me, she inspires me to listen more closely to my heart, she nudges me to act and speak from love, she motivates me to be sincere, and she encourages me to fully embrace who I am.

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Living in Florence :: Opening up to Florenceís beauty

To some people, Florence might just be a beautiful city to visit and enjoy. To me, Florence is one of my greatest loves. Loving a city is like loving a person: I was initially attracted to Florenceís beauty, I enjoy so many of her qualities, I accept my beloved city as she is, and I love how she makes me feel when I am in her embrace. I didnít choose to love Florence by checking items off of a list, but rather by feeling her love inside of me. While I am attracted to Florenceís exterior, it is her interior that I fell in love with. Her heart, her soul, and her vibrant energy influence me every day.

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Living in Florence :: Running up to San Miniato al Monte

I felt a twinge of excitement this morning as I closed the door of my apartment building and walked toward the Arno river. I have been running up to San Miniato al Monte for the past week and I couldnít wait to get up there again today. I love running up the winding viale Michelangiolo on the path up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. When I first started running again, I would stroll around the Giardino delle Rose before heading back down through San NiccolÚ. Then, I would just stop at Piazzale Michelangiolo and take a few photos before running back down the viale. Nowadays, I run up to San Miniato, climb the steps to the church, and then run back down the viale.

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Living in Florence :: Letting Florence lead the way

People often ask me for my advice when they come to Florence for a visit. Instead of giving them any specific information about where to go and what to visit, I always suggest that people let themselves be drawn into Florence. Even though I have lived here for many years, I still enjoy letting Florence lead the way. For me, itís the best way to discover new aspects of my beloved city. If I stick to what I know and where Iíve been, Iíll never discover anything new.

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Living in Florence :: Enjoying the gardens in Florence

As soon as I set foot on the narrow path in the Giardino Bardini, I feel a sense of tranquility come over me. While the gravel crunches under my feet, the hum of the city begins to fade. I take the shortcut to the top by hiking up the steps in the middle section of the gardens. At the top of the staircase, I see the two statues on the terrace wall. Instead of walking through the gardens on the right, I turn left and walk up the incline. I feel a sense of excitement as I stroll through the tunnel of purple and pink wisteria that has just started hanging down. When I reach the top, I look out at Florence and can only hear the birds chirping and the church bells ringing in the distance.

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Living in Florence :: Florence still takes my breath away

The other day I was standing outside a friendís door on via dei Servi waiting to be buzzed in and I saw the Duomo at the end of the street. I was so taken by the view and the way the sun was shining on the street that I took a photo. It got me thinking about just how incredibly fortunate I am to enjoy so much beauty. Instead of going home directly after my appointment, I walked around the Duomo to admire it in its entirety. I was so taken by its beauty that I almost didnít notice how crowded it was in front of the Duomo. When I finally looked around me, I saw tourists huddled in groups, bikes zigzagging around us, and horse drawn carriages ringing their bells and making their way through the crowds.

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Living in Florence :: Being present on the Ponte Santa Trinita

Standing in the middle of the Ponte Santa Trinita, I feel as if I am in the center of Florence. Itís not that the ponte (bridge) is in the middle of the city physically, but it is where I feel completely immersed in Florenceís energy. On the ponte, I feel as if I am a part of Florenceís completeness with the water flowing below me, people circulating around me, and the buildings and monuments above me.

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Living in Florence :: Running in Florence and taking photos

When I head out for a run in the morning, I am excited not just to run, but also to bask in my beloved city's beauty. I enjoy running outside, even when I'm on vacation, to see more of my surroundings. Of all the places where I have run, Florence is my favorite. Not just because Florence has such lovely monuments and churches, but because of how Mother Nature enhances her beauty. At sunrise and sunset, the sun casts a golden light on the city. When it's cloudy, the pastel-colored buildings become more vibrant. When the wind dies down, the Arno is so still that you can see the reflections of the buildings on it. After a big rain, the water in the Arno flows swiftly and cascades over the three pescaie (weirs) in town.

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Living in Florence :: My heart is everywhere

Every experience inspires you to fully embrace who you are. For the last five years, I have been bouncing back and forth between Florence and Paris. Initially, I was overjoyed to go back to Paris where my expat life first began, but slowly it became less joyful for me. When I moved to Florence the first time, I blocked Paris out of my mind so that I could fully experience Florence. I didnít want to keep looking over my shoulder wondering what my life would be like in Paris, so I closed that chapter of my life and began a new one in Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Taking the time to cultivate joy

Every morning I open up my persiane (shutters) and look out at the sky above the four-story hotel that blocks my view of San NiccolÚ. I canít see the sun rising along the Arno, but I can see the vivid colors filling up the sky. If the sky isnít overcast, I consider going outside to stand along the Arno and watch the sunrise. Most of the time, however, my head convinces me to stay home where I am comfortable and warm. Sometimes I do feel inspired to just head outside no matter what thoughts might prevent me.

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Living in Florence :: Florence's beauty is love

Beauty is not just pleasing to the eye; itís also pleasing to the heart and soul. Iím fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it isnít enough for me to just fall asleep and wake up in Florence every day. I do my best to take the time to walk around Florence so that I can admire and appreciate her every day. I always carry my iPhone in my pocket so that Iím ready to take a picture the moment I see something that inspires me. Inevitably a lot inspires me and I take a lot of pictures on my walks.

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Living in Florence :: Being supported by Florence

This year has been an intense one for me. I didnít realize the intensity of it until I went to California at the end of July. All of a sudden, everything came to a halt when I fell ill. For three weeks, I was tired and feverish. I tried to get better, but my body just needed a break. The only thing that made me feel better was doing absolutely nothing. All the plans I had made for my trip were cancelled and I even missed my friendís wedding, which was one of the main reasons of my going to California.

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Living in Florence :: Embracing the hope of a new day

At 7am this morning, I opened up my shutters and got excited when I saw the vibrant pink, light blue, and gold sky. I stood gazing out at the sky, but buildings blocked my view. I debated for about a minute whether I was really going to go outside or not. I really wanted to, but I hadnít even had my tea yet and was just waking up. I looked out again at the sky and I just couldnít resist going outside. I threw on my sweats, grabbed a jacket, laced up my sneakers, and raced out the door.

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Living in Florence :: Chasing sunsets and finding peace

For the past couple of weeks, I have tried to go outside as often as possible to watch the sunset. I initially thought that I just wanted to observe the sky change color Ė from blue to yellow to orange and pink Ė as the sun inched its way down the sky. What I realized, however, after going out a couple of evenings in a row was that the sunsets were allowing me to be more present. I was able to enjoy a peaceful moment in which I truly appreciated not just the day, but also my life and where it had brought me.

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Living in Florence :: Sunrise stroll along the Arno

When the church bells rang five times this morning, I was surprised that I was fully awake. I looked out the window and saw that it was already light outside. The sun hadnít risen high enough yet for the ponte (bridge) to cast its long shadow on the Arno so I thought that I would finally go outside to take some photos. I had wanted to get up early to take photos of my beloved city and never woke up early enough. Even if I didnít plan on it, it was actually the best thing I could do on a Sunday morning.

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