"This pandemic can also show the best part of people," the student said.

By Alison Fox
April 21, 2020
Advertisement

When an Italian student became stranded in Spain, unable to get home, a generous taxi driver sprung into action, driving her for 12 hours to get her home — all for free.

The student, 22-year-old Giada Collalto, had been studying languages in Bilbao, Spain, since Feb. 1 and had expected to be there until the end of June, CNN reported. But when COVID-19 swept through Europe her in-person classes were cancelled, her roommates left their apartment, and Collalto, from Montebello, Italy, started trying to find a way to get home.

"When the coronavirus pandemic started I decided to remain in Spain and see how things would go," Collalto told CNN, adding that after a while staying put “no longer made sense.”

She searched the internet, called the Italian embassy, and purchased a plane ticket but that only resulted in restrictions at the airport in Madrid and being told on April 8 she couldn’t board, the network explained. At the time, both countries were under strict quarantine, grappling with over a hundred thousand cases of coronavirus.

"I was desperate and angry, my parents were worried but couldn't do anything to help me,” she said. “I called the embassy and they told to me to send an email. All hotels in Madrid were closed, no public transport to go back to Bilbao.”

That’s when Kepa Amantegi, a taxi driver in Spain, stepped up. The driver, also 22 years old, heard about Collalto’s plight from a friend and immediately went to the airport — a nine hour round trip drive — to pick her up.

Taxi in Spain
Credit: Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Amantegi then offered Collalto a place to stay with his family for the night before deciding he would drive her all the way back to Italy too.

And to make the offer even sweeter, he wasn’t charging her for the ride.

“We called the local authorities and, as incredible as it may seem, we got all the necessary authorizations,” she told CNN. “I was allowed since I was traveling back home and he, as a taxi driver, was allowed because of his work."

On April 10, the pair set off for Italy and he finally dropped her off 12 hours later. Amantegi wouldn’t take money for the ride, but accepted reimbursement for expenses for picking her up in Madrid.

Collalto then returned the generosity, having Amantegi spend the night before loading him up with tasty treats like wine and chocolate (it is Italy, after all) for his ride back to Spain.

"It's something I will never forget, I was a complete stranger to this young man," she told CNN. "This pandemic can also show the best part of people."

Click here for the most recent updates on coronavirus from Travel + Leisure.