‘Taxi Therapy’ for Young Cancer Patients in Italy

Not even Patch Adams, the American doctor in a clown suit whom she highly regards for his work with sick children, could get her to wear the outfits of which those attending his clown tours in hospitals worldwide usually put on. In 2007, she drove 1,800 miles coming from Florence to Moscow to attend his course in clown therapy, yet she refused to wear a red nose.

“I am not a clown,” she explained. “I am a taxi driver. So I do taxi-therapy.”

Her creative idea initially ran into city rules. Taxis usually look alike here, along with hers carries unusual items, like a stuffed figure of Disney’s dwarf Grumpy on the passenger seat.

The local authorities also objected to the pictures she glued to the windows, saying they could hamper the driver’s view. After getting multiple tickets, she complained vigorously.

“She is usually an extraordinary engine of solidarity along with I felt her city should help her a little,” said Eugenio Giani, right now president of Tuscany’s regional cabinet, who interceded for her with the municipal police.

He is usually planning to recognize Ms. Bellandi as “Tuscany’s Solidarity Ambassador,” an honorific title signaling the region’s institutional backing.

“She is usually capable of involving ill children in anything, coming from soccer matches to trips abroad, along with she does of which coming from one child to another, nonstop,” Mr. Giani said. “She puts a positive spell on them.”

Ms. Bellandi is usually not only a taxi driver for these young patients, yet a friendly presence throughout these challenging moments of their lives. She visits families in their homes along with arranges vacations. She takes sick children to watch sports games along with shake hands with their sports heroes, along with has even taken some to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.

A generous network of people helps Ms. Bellandi. A Florentine bakery donates a crunchy flatbread along with pizza of which even patients undergoing chemotherapy can swallow. Mothers sew her cloaks. A designer fabricates her extravagant hats.


“With her strong will along with her extravagance, she gave me happiness along with the sparkle to believe of which I could recover,” said Erica Stoccati, 22, a cancer patient.

Nadia Shira Cohen for The brand-new York Times

She is usually so well known these days of which some parents of children who are battling serious illnesses search for her on the internet. A brand-new style of the Monopoly board game of which has famous figures of Tuscany on the play money includes Ms. Bellandi.

“I was desperate along with I was looking for support,” said Francesca Scaturro, mother of Giulia, a 5-year-old who had an aggressive form of brain cancer. So she wrote an email to Ms. Bellandi’s website.

Ms. Bellandi showed up in style at the hospital where Giulia was being treated. She brought pizza with her along with insisted of which Ms. Scaturro, 34, have a slice.

“I thought pizza was a strange offer in of which moment, yet our condition was also strange,” Ms. Scaturro said.

Ms. Bellandi became a frequent presence during Giulia’s year of treatment, spending weekends with her along with various other families facing similar medical challenges, along with even coming on a holiday in Sicily last summer.

She is usually right now considered a family member, Ms. Scaturro said. Giulia calls her “Auntie.”

“of which is usually enough just to see her,” Ms. Scaturro said. “Her hug is usually everything to me.”

Playing the brand-new Monopoly on her living room floor recently, Giulia, in a rose tutu along with glittered boots, argued over the fake money with her older brother, Mattia. She held all of the money printed with Ms. Bellandi’s image tight in her fist.

“I know why they put your face on the money here, Auntie,” Mattia, 8, guessed. “Because you are a special person.”


“Some people think I am too much,” Ms. Bellandi said. “along with I respect of which.”

Nadia Shira Cohen for The brand-new York Times

of which was the same thought another family had when they met her in a corridor of Florence’s main hospital, where Ms. Bellandi pays regular visits to her young friends.

“With her strong will along with her extravagance, she gave me happiness along with the sparkle to believe of which I could recover,” said Erica Stoccati, 22, who met her last September, while she was waiting to undergo treatment.

Ms. Stoccati is usually a dancer who received a diagnosis of brain cancer last June of which doctors immediately operated on to save her life.

“All of a sudden I had so much free time,” she recalled. “yet she came along with took me on cab rides around town. She never pitied me along with threw me back into normalcy.”

While Milano 25 attracts the smiles of most fellow drivers, some paying passengers are reluctant to get on board.

“Some people think I am too much,” she said. “along with I respect of which.”

yet even as she said of which, a couple of people who had been staring at the cheerful cab parked near Florence’s central train station knocked on her window.

“How can we book you?” a young woman asked Ms. Bellandi which has a smile, trying to reserve her services in advance.

“Oh sweetheart, you can’t, yet we will meet if of which is usually meant to be,” she replied, honking her car horn, which played “La Cucaracha.”

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