Hard times have the power to bring out the best in people, and this is exactly what 22-year-old Giada Collalto, an Italian student in Bilbao, was reminded of this week. Collalto had been reading languages as a part of a study abroad program in Spain since the beginning of February when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the nationwide lockdown. With canceled classes and other students returning home, Collalto turned to the Italian embassy for help. Although supportive, unfortunately, an organized flight from Madrid scheduled to take off on April 8 was canceled due to the strict emergency situations in both Italy and Spain.
“I was desperate and angry, my parents were worried but couldn’t do anything to help me,” the student told Travel + Leisure, adding that staying in Madrid where hotels and public transportation were shut down was not an option. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Basque taxi driver Kepa Amantegi got wind of Collalto’s misfortune and made the decision to personally transport the student home to Italy. “I put myself in her shoes and didn’t think twice,” Amantegi told MSN. After driving nine hours from Bilbao to Madrid to pick Collalto up, they then embarked on a 12-hour drive through France and Monaco before reaching their destination of Montebello, Italy.
According to the taxi meter, the total trip cost came out to almost $3,146, none of which Amantegi would accept. “Giada’s father came down to meet us on the street and gave me a hug. He put a hand on his chest and said, ‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart, really,’” the driver shared. He agreed to spend the night with the Colallto’s before heading home the next day, his taxi loaded with chocolate and wine — a token of gratitude from the girl’s family.