In the centre of Naples, there is a special place where emotional well-being is restored and poignant memories saved from oblivion.
In the dolls' hospital, dolls and teddy bears are given a new life and their owners can recapture their lost childhood.
“When people contact us, their first urge is to tell us their story and why that doll left an indelible mark on their life. Behind each doll, there’s always an extraordinary story," says Hospital Head Tiziana Grassi.
People from Italy and Europe would write letters and emails and send their precious dolls to the hospital, where they are given proper diagnosis and cure.
“By repairing dolls, we retrieve people’s emotions, those precise childhood moments, the feelings they had when they hugged their favourite object,” says Tiziana.
“This is my grandmother’s doll,” says one customer. “She is not with us anymore. She always meant to take this doll to the hospital and I felt like I had to respect her wish. Now, she is going to be properly mended.”
It’s a different kind of hospital. Here, no patient will ever die, and they are all discharged in good health. Then, it is up to their loved ones whether or not they will stay that way, and whether they will still be their best friends and their most cherished memories.
Dolls Hospital handed down across four generations
Tiziana inherited her passion from her father and great grandfathers. The first shop repairing dolls opened at the end of the 19th century and she now has turned it into a magical place for children - and for adults taking a trip down memory lane.
She takes special pride in showing children a doll that’s linked to a toy heartbeat monitor.
“I ask children to put their hands on the doll’s belly, which can be seen on the screen,” she says. “Then I ask them to put the stethoscope on. Because strangely enough there is a beating heart sound.”
For dolls, entering this place means getting mended. But for their owners, it's a moment to relive the magic of childhood.