by Melinda Gallo

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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Living in Florence :: Mesmerized by the fireworks for San Giovanni

In the late evening, I always enjoy a walk along the Arno and stop on a ponte (bridge) to take a photo of the sunset. Last night, however, I was on Ponte alle Grazie for a completely different reason: to watch the fuochi díartificio (fireworks), which we call ďfochiĒ in Florence to celebrate the Festa di San Giovanni, Florenceís feast day. I have only seen the fochi a couple of times since Iíve been living here. A few years ago, I watched the fireworks from Ponte San NiccolÚ and wrote about it in a blog entry.

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Living in Florence :: My home in Florence

In the morning, the city hums outside my apartment windows. Shortly after the sun rises, I am awakened by the garbage truck that beeps as it reverses into position in the piazza below. I bask in the sounds of my beloved city as it awakens. I slowly get up when I hear the church bells ring seven times. At the same time, I hear the workmen at the cantieri (construction site) in the piazza arrive and greet each other. These are some of the familiar sounds in my neighborhood that I associate with being home in Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Enjoying the unpredictable weather

This summer more than ever the weather seems to be a bit quirky in Florence. Almost ever day, the weather surprises me by how it can change so quickly and dramatically. It could be sunny in the morning, then itíll begin to rain, and just when you least expect it, the sun reappears. Yesterday, we had a temporale (thunder shower) in the afternoon and then in the early evening the skies cleared and made way for a lovely sunset.

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Living in Florence :: Florence nurtures me back to my heart

After being in Paris for two weeks, something shifted in me. The city did not change, but I did. At the beginning of this week, I felt completely empty. I tried many different things to cheer myself up, but nothing seemed to work. Running didnít give me a high, I wasnít inspired to take any pictures, and my writing projects didnít excite me anymore. When I was in Florence just a few weeks ago, I had focused on one writing project in particular and was happily working on my fourth draft. But after returning to Paris, I felt completely empty as if I had nothing to write.

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Living in Florence :: Nourished by both Tuscany and Florence

Itís not just because I have been physically living in Florence for over ten years that it is my home. Florence has a powerful energy that I enjoy and appreciate. Itís a city that not only inspires me, but also supports me. I love Florence more than any other place in the world. Whenever I go somewhere else, I wonder if maybe it could become as special as Florence, but no matter where I go the answer is always no.

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Living in Florence :: Taking the time to smell the roses

I always look forward to being in Florence during the month of May. Itís when I get to admire the flowers in Florence. Every morning this week, I looked out the window to see if the weather was good to go to the Giardino Bardini to have a walk around, but unfortunately I was either busy or the weather was a little quirky. Yesterday evening, I walked along the Arno toward Ponte Santa Trinita in the hopes of catching the sunset. When I saw that it was a bit overcast, I crossed the Ponte Vecchio and turned left down via dei Bardi.

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Living in Florence :: Touching down in Florence

When the pilot announced that we were beginning our descent, I peered out the airplane window. After admiring the French countryside divided into well-defined sections of different colors, the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, and then the vast Mediterranean Sea, I was happy to finally see the hilly and vibrant green Tuscan countryside with a few houses sprinkled around it. As the plane fluttered in the sky and then flew through a couple of large, fluffy clouds, I spotted Florence in the distance. My beloved city is easy to recognize because of the sea of light colored buildings with terracotta rooftops and the Duomo standing out in the center.

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Living in Florence :: Searching for an apartment to call home

About a year and a half ago, I almost purchased an apartment in Borgo Allegri situated between Piazza Ciompi and Piazza Santa Croce. I thought it was my dream apartment, albeit not that large, because of the fabulous location and the spectacular view of the neighboring rooftops and the Duomo in the distance. As I got closer to the date to sign off on it, I began to feel dread instead of joy. I contemplated what to do even though I knew that I had to back out. I thought it would be the perfect place for me and had even planned out where I was going to put my desk so I could look up at the Duomo.

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Living in Florence :: Experiencing the dawn of a new day

Love is the only reason I can give as to why I stood in the dark to take photos of Florence last week. I dragged myself out of bed before the sun came up, bundled myself up, and rushed outside where it was -3į C. After a few days of clear blue skies, I wanted to capture the beauty of my beloved city as it was just waking up. I had never made an effort to take photos of Florence at sunrise, but the night before thatís all I could think of. Ever since I have been living in Florence, I have come to admire the way the sun enhances the beauty of my beloved city. The weather affects how Florence appears: sometimes the colors are more vibrant and other times less so. My favorite effect of the sun is the reflection of a ponte (bridge) and palazzi (buildings) on the Arno river.

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Living in Florence :: Reveling in Florence in the off-season

The tourist off-season in Florence can feel like a dream. Especially if the weather permits as it has been, Iím able to walk around town as if it were all mine. Today, I strolled along the Arno and wandered through the centro storico (historical center) without always watching where Iím going. I brought my reflex camera with me so that I could take a few pictures. Ever since I got on Instagram, I have been taking photos with my iPhone. I love it because itís so handy, but the quality isnít the same. I have become rather reluctant to lug my cumbersome camera with me, but every time I do I am happy because I was able to take some amazing photos.

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Living in Florence :: Views that inspire me to write

This morning I couldnít wait to get out of my apartment so I could take advantage of my day off from work. Over the weekend, I decided to spend Monday soaking up my beloved city and focusing on my writing projects. I rushed downstairs and strolled along the Arno. With the Ponte alle Grazie behind me, I headed toward Ponte Vecchio. I had made mental plans of how I would spend my morning. I usually write at home, but felt a pull to write somewhere new.

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Living in Florence :: Absence makes my heart grow fonder

I am often asked if I had to choose between Florence and Paris, which city would I live in. Every time, I say Florence. However, the real answer is that my love for Florence has only increased by my also living in Paris. The amount of love I have in my heart has multiplied and has not been divided. I didnít know it would be possible to have this much love in my heart for two cities.

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Living in Florence :: Breathing in my beloved city

The spike of tourists during this holiday season seemed to be greater than I had ever experienced. I might have also noticed it more because I was walking around Florence much of the time with my beau. We could never walk hand in hand because of the crowded streets. We got jostled quite a bit and it was at times quite frustrating. My beau took off on Sunday so unfortunately he didnít get to experience my beloved city as of Tuesday evening.

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I love how Florence always keeps me open. Even after more than 12 years, I am still learning about her and discovering more each day. Florence isnít a city that you live in, visit, or read about and think you ďknowĒ it. You can learn facts about it, study its history, explore the streets, but you canít truly know her deeply without taking time to be connected to her. Florence is almost like a person. You can meet her, admire her, acquaint yourself with her, but to know her, you have to create a rapport with her. You have to spend time with her and try to experience her in every season.

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Living in Florence :: In Florence to celebrate the New Year

Itís the first day of the year and I am in my beloved city. My beau and I took a three-day trip to Venice and returned in time to celebrate the New Year in Florence. The streets were virtually silent after last nightís festivities that went on until early this morning. When I woke up this morning, the only sound I heard was the church bells echoing throughout the city on the hour. With bright blue skies overhead, we walked along the Arno while only a handful of people were wandering the streets. I was eager to go to the Ponte Vecchio because I was hoping that the ďBuon 2015Ē sign would still be hanging on the ponte (bridge), and it was.

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I havenít written as much on my blog as I would have wanted to this year. I actually did write a lot for my blog, but in the end didnít publish what I wrote. I was unsure about how to manage my two blogs and I finally came to the conclusion that I have to separate them a bit more. I will now concentrate only on Florence in this blog. I, of course, couldnít help but share my beloved city with you all, which is why I took a lot of photos of Florence and shared them on my Instagram account.

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Living in Florence has taught me one important lesson: change is positive. Everything and everyone is changing all the time. Sometimes itís happening at a fast pace while at other times at a much slower pace, but nothing stays the same. In Florence, I have experienced changes, both big and small: moving apartments, divorcing, changing professions, beginning/completing writing projects, and meeting new friends and letting go of others. I have learned that you canít hold onto anything and when you try, it is thrust out of your grip anyway.

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Living in Florence :: Celebrating ten years in Florence

When I returned to Florence ten years ago today I wasnít certain that I would stay as long as I have. In my heart, I knew I didnít want to never leave, but I couldnít make such decisions alone. After my five-year hiatus in the US, I arrived in Florence accompanied by my then husband. I had never moved anywhere with anyone and I didnít know how the move would affect us. Over time, my life in Florence became more important to me than anything or anyone else.

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One of the reasons I feel in my element in Florence is that it is where I can freely live out my emotions. When I was growing up, I was taught to show only ďpositiveĒ emotions (and not too much of them either) and hide all the ďnegativeĒ ones. I learned at a young age that no one wanted to see me angry or sad. All the ďnegativeĒ emotions I had were to be lived out privately and more specifically when I was by alone.

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Living in Florence :: Running along the Arno before taking off

Today was my last day in Florence and I began it with a run along the Arno. During my stay home, I headed up to the Piazzale Michelangiolo for each of my morning runs. However, because it was a little chillier than it has been, I decided to stick to the centro (downtown area). When I arrived at the end of Ponte alle Grazie, I turned right and headed toward the Ponte Vecchio, which looked like it was lit up by the sun that was just coming up.

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Living in Florence :: Pausing to savor the moment

I was almost not going to go running during my stay in Florence because I had forgotten my iPod in France. At first, I was upset with myself because I hate forgetting things. Then, I realized that I could take my iPhone with me, which has all my music on it. I had only run with my iPhone on vacation, but I didnít realize how this change would end up being so rewarding.

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I love being an expat so much that I canít imagine not being one. I love how two cities that were foreign to me and have now become so familiar to me that I consider them home. I love how living overseas has opened me up, changed me, allowed me to grow, and stretched me to be who I was born to be. I love how I have learned to look past the surface. I love how I see people for who they are and not what they do. I love how communicating with someone doesnít involve only the words he/she says.

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Before returning to Paris for work almost four years ago, I kept my French in my back pocket. I pulled it out when I needed it, but kept Italian as my ďmainĒ foreign language for over 10 years. Nowadays, I have to juggle both French and Italian, and on a daily basis. I speak to my beau and my colleagues in French, I speak to my friends in Florence in Italian, and I write in English. It might not sound that difficult, but being fluent in two foreign languages is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. It takes concentration, effort, and a bit of fumbling around.

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