Missing Toddler Found by Journalist Sent to Cover Disappearance

A journalist in Italy covering the story of a missing toddler who spent two nights alone in the woods has been credited with finding him after he heard his whimpers at the bottom of a ravine.

The disappearance of 21-month-old Nicola Tanturli was the focus of intense media coverage after he wandered away from his isolated home near Palazzuolo sul Senio in Tuscany's Apennine mountains on Monday night.

Giuseppe Di Tommaso, who was covering the story for RAI state television, said he was walking up a dirt road toward the family home when he heard noises coming from a ravine.

Di Tommaso started to shout out the boy's name and said that he had heard a voice say "mamma."

Mugello, ritrovato il piccolo Nicola | Un giornalista ha sentito il lamento poi un carabiniere si cala nel burrone e lo salva #NicolaTanturli https://t.co/ChHcD8udCS pic.twitter.com/xGWggApgQv

— Tgcom24 (@MediasetTgcom24) June 23, 2021

"I started to repeat the word 'mamma,' because children of that age repeat words," he told RAI, before going down into the bush-covered ravine when he realized it could be the boy.

He said that he saw the child on the other side although he was in an area covered with bush. The journalist said he hailed two police officers who initially thought the noises had come from an animal.

Police commander Danilo Ciccarelli said he climbed down the embankment thinking that he would come across a small deer.

"Instead, Nicola popped out, with his little head among the high grass. He said, 'mamma,' and I went toward him. He hugged me right away," Ciccarelli said, according to the Associated Press.

The boy was found around a mile from his home with only a few scratches and a small bump on his head and was brought up to his parents for an emotional reunion.

"It was a tremendous joy to bring him back to his mother's arms," Ciccarelli said.

Church bells pealed in the town of Palazzuolo sul Senio, amid a collective sigh of relief at the remarkable rescue. The boy was taken to hospital for treatment and is expected to be discharged on Thursday.

Amid speculation over how he managed to wander so far, the boy's father, Leonardo Tanturli, said that the door of the family's house had been closed but not locked and so he may have opened it to "come looking for us."

He said that when the boy left the house "we were 20 meters away, in the garden" and he must have gone "in the opposite direction, without calling anyone."

"He is a child used to walking...independently, but he had never gone away in this way," he said, according to the newspaper Corriere della Sera. He said he felt "a great happiness" and a "huge joy" following his discovery, which followed "hours of despair."

Police car in Florence, Italy
A police car in Florence, Italy, is shown in this illustrative image from March 2021. Police in the region have spoken of the discovery of a toddler who went missing in the Tuscan mountains. Paolo Lo Debole/Getty