One evening in Florence, I walked past a white taxi covered in flowers and other colourful cartoon-like patterns. The taxi caught my attention and my eyes met with the driver, a smiling lady with glittering eyes and a huge colourful hat to match her taxi. She seemed like a character straight from a children’s story.
I was with a group and we were merry after having a few drinks in the City centre. It’s not something I’d usually do but something prompted me to wave at the lady as we passed. She smiled cheerfully and waved right back.
That brief interaction led me to do some research. I wanted to know her story! I spoke about her to locals in Florence and searched the web for the little information I had.
I found that her name was Caterina Bellandi and that she is well loved.
Caterina was once an office worker but took over the taxi from her partner, who tragically died from lung cancer at the age of 39. While driving the taxi, she gained some healing through sharing her story with her passengers.
One day she spoke with a family who had lost their child to a brain tumour. Through their pain, they had set up a charitable foundation for the cure and study of paediatric tumours. Inspired by the family’s story, Caterina began to provide free rides to and from Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence. This led to the setting up of her charity, Milano25.
Taxi Milano25 is decorated with stuffed animals, balloons, and sweets. Disney tunes usually make up the background music and Caterina makes every one of her passengers feel special. She provides more than just a free ride. She provides some hope.
I never spoke with or interacted with Caterina beyond that one tipsy wave, but her story left a big impression on me. She’s proof that fairy godmother’s do exist and inspiration to find some magic in spite of tough times.