Not even Patch Adams, the American physician in a clown go well with whom she extremely regards for his work with sick kids, might get her to put on the outfits that these attending his clown excursions in hospitals worldwide normally placed on. In 2007, she drove 1,800 miles from Florence to Moscow to attend his course in clown remedy, however she refused to put on a purple nostril.
“I’m not a clown,” she defined. “I’m a taxi driver. So I do taxi-therapy.”
Her artistic thought initially bumped into metropolis guidelines. Taxis normally look alike right here, and hers carries uncommon gadgets, like a stuffed determine of Disney’s dwarf Grumpy on the passenger seat.
The native authorities additionally objected to the photographs she glued to the home windows, saying they may hamper the driving force’s view. After getting a number of tickets, she complained vigorously.
“She is a unprecedented engine of solidarity and I felt her metropolis ought to assist her somewhat,” mentioned Eugenio Giani, now president of Tuscany’s regional cupboard, who interceded for her with the municipal police.
He’s planning to acknowledge Ms. Bellandi as “Tuscany’s Solidarity Ambassador,” an honorific title signaling the area’s institutional backing.
“She is able to involving ailing kids in something, from soccer matches to journeys overseas, and he or she does it from one youngster to a different, nonstop,” Mr. Giani mentioned. “She places a optimistic spell on them.”
Ms. Bellandi isn’t solely a taxi driver for these younger sufferers, however a pleasant presence all through these difficult moments of their lives. She visits households of their houses and arranges holidays. She takes sick kids to observe sports activities video games and shake arms with their sports activities heroes, and has even taken some to the Vatican to satisfy Pope Francis.
A beneficiant community of individuals helps Ms. Bellandi. A Florentine bakery donates a crunchy flatbread and pizza that even sufferers present process chemotherapy can swallow. Moms sew her cloaks. A designer fabricates her extravagant hats.
She is so well-known as of late that some dad and mom of youngsters who’re battling critical diseases seek for her on the web. A brand new model of the Monopoly board recreation that has well-known figures of Tuscany on the play cash contains Ms. Bellandi.
“I used to be determined and I used to be searching for assist,” mentioned Francesca Scaturro, mom of Giulia, a 5-year-old who had an aggressive type of mind most cancers. So she wrote an electronic mail to Ms. Bellandi’s web site.
Ms. Bellandi confirmed up in fashion on the hospital the place Giulia was being handled. She introduced pizza together with her and insisted that Ms. Scaturro, 34, have a slice.
“I believed pizza was an odd supply in that second, however our situation was additionally unusual,” Ms. Scaturro mentioned.
Ms. Bellandi grew to become a frequent presence throughout Giulia’s yr of remedy, spending weekends together with her and different households going through related medical challenges, and even approaching a vacation in Sicily final summer time.
She is now thought-about a member of the family, Ms. Scaturro mentioned. Giulia calls her “Auntie.”
“It’s sufficient simply to see her,” Ms. Scaturro mentioned. “Her hug is every little thing to me.”
Taking part in the brand new Monopoly on her lounge ground just lately, Giulia, in a rose tutu and glittered boots, argued over the pretend cash together with her older brother, Mattia. She held all the cash printed with Ms. Bellandi’s picture tight in her fist.
“I do know why they put your face on the cash right here, Auntie,” Mattia, eight, guessed. “As a result of you’re a particular particular person.”
It was the identical thought one other household had once they met her in a hall of Florence’s fundamental hospital, the place Ms. Bellandi pays common visits to her younger buddies.
“Along with her robust will and her extravagance, she gave me happiness and the flicker to imagine that I might recuperate,” mentioned Erica Stoccati, 22, who met her final September, whereas she was ready to bear remedy.
Ms. Stoccati is a dancer who obtained a analysis of mind most cancers final June that medical doctors instantly operated on to save lots of her life.
“Abruptly I had a lot free time,” she recalled. “However she got here and took me on cab rides round city. She by no means pitied me and threw me again into normalcy.”
Whereas Milano 25 attracts the grins of most fellow drivers, some paying passengers are reluctant to get on board.
“Some folks assume I’m an excessive amount of,” she mentioned. “And I respect that.”
However at the same time as she mentioned that, a few individuals who had been staring on the cheerful cab parked close to Florence’s central prepare station knocked on her window.
“How can we ebook you?” a younger girl requested Ms. Bellandi with a smile, attempting to order her providers upfront.
“Oh sweetheart, you may’t, however we’ll meet whether it is meant to be,” she replied, honking her automobile horn, which performed “La Cucaracha.”