by Melinda Gallo

Three years already?

I can't believe that I've been living in Florence for the last three years. I was looking back at the beginning of my blog and was surprised that it was November 16th. I read a few entries and was surprised at how much my life has changed and how much I too have changed.

When I first arrived I only spoke English to my ex-husband. And each time I walked out the door, I turned the switch in my head to speak Italian. A year after we arrived, I made friends with an American girl Sarah who is now one of my dearest friends. Before meeting her, I had never gone out of my way to meet Americans. It wasn't because I don't like Americans, but I wanted to speak as much Italian as possible, and I knew that if I met Americans I'd speak English.

I am fortunate to have made a lot of friends, both Italian and American. My American friends have understood me at times when my Italian friends didn't. I think that it's not only because we share a similar culture, but mostly because we experience Italy in a similar manner. We know that Italy is not our country, but we have chosen to live here. Each one of us has different reasons for being in Florence with varying degrees of acceptance and love for Florence.

Nowadays, I speak only Italian at home and speak English only with my English-speaking friends. I realize that my Italian has improved even more because of my living with Alessandro. I pick up his modi di dire (expressions) and his accento fiorentino (Florentine accent), which I truly love.

I realize that I don't miss much from the US any more. When I went to the States last month, I didn't feel much need to buy things to bring back. I didn't even buy a single book, which is shocking because I usually stuff at least a dozen or so in my luggage each time I go back to the States.

I don't even think of California as my home anymore. I love California and I miss my family a great deal, but when I go back I feel like a tourist. I don't feel that I could live in California ever again. I talked to a Swedish girl who lives in Florence and summed it up well, "Mi piace tanto il mio paese, ma non mi vedo lì. (I really like my country, but I don't see myself there.)"

I can't fully explain in words why I feel at home in Florence and why I am so drawn to live here and nowhere else. It is like my falling in love with Alessandro. There might be a few logical reasons like the fact that we have similar values and are good friends, but mostly it's because I feel so strongly for him. Love is what it is, and sometimes just can't be explained.

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