AN Brescia’s Niccolo Gitto has been speaking publicly about a harrowing ordeal in which he and his family, including two young children, had to escape from a fiery blaze in their apartment block.
In the heart of the night between August 14th and 15th, a fierce blaze erupted within the walls of a residential building that housed Italian water polo champion Niccolò Gitto, his wife Victoria, and their two young sons, Leonardo and Gabriele. The flames roared on the lower floors of the building, sending a dense wave of smoke billowing upwards, threatening to consume the upper floors, including the Gitto family’s apartment on the 9th floor. What ensued was a courageous tale, marked by swift action and unyielding determination to safeguard their loved ones.
Describing the harrowing events of that fateful night with Water Polo Development., the two-time Olympic medalist recounted, “At half past midnight my wife Victoria woke me up telling me that she smelled something burning… We got up and from the bedroom window we saw a column of smoke.” The seasoned 36-year-old Brescia defender quickly realised the peril they were in. “There were people in the street, someone shouted ‘Nicco, your piano is on fire!'” he recalled.
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In a split second, the Gitto family was propelled into a race against time, and the smoke. “I took the children off the bed, we collected our keys and wallets and protected our mouths with a wet towel,” Niccolo continued. Opening the door of their apartment exposed them to an overwhelming tide of dense, black smoke. “I’d never seen it so dark,” he said.
As breathing became increasingly laboured and the smoke obliterated their surroundings, Niccolo and Victoria knew they had to make a daring decision. They held their children close, using damp towels to shield their faces, and bravely plunged into the smog-filled abyss to escape the building. “I had the children in my arms and I was advancing blindly, I didn’t know where the fire was,” Niccolo described.
The descent down the stairs was treacherous, with each step fraught with uncertainty. Suddenly, Niccolo sickeningly realised Victoria was no longer beside him. “I called Victoria but I didn’t see her,” he said, conveying the panic that gripped him. In a heartbeat, he decided to retrace his steps, climbing the stairs through the thick smoke in a desperate bid to rescue his wife.
Risking his own safety, Niccolo ascended the steps, his shirt pressed against his face to filter out the acrid fumes. “We were immersed in smoke,” he recalled. “Eventually, however, we touched on the steps of the house. And we managed to go back down together.”
Victoria endured an injury in the chaos, but ultimately the Gitto family emerged from the ordeal miraculously unscathed. Thanks to the timely support of friends and family, they found temporary shelter amidst the aftermath. Niccolo’s brother-in-law and former teammates Christian Presciutti opened his doors to the family, providing a sanctuary as they began the process of rebuilding their lives.
The Brescia veteran recognized the silver lining amidst the smoky clouds. “Many people have written to me, we have received so much solidarity from everyone,” he acknowledged. The outpouring of support was a source of strength that has fortified their spirits since losing their family home to ash. As the family embarks on the path to recovery, the prospect of returning to their daily routine – school, sports, and camaraderie – holds the promise of healing.
Total Waterpolo sends its best wishes to Niccolo, his wife Victoria and his two sons Leonardo and Gabriele, as well as everyone affected in the fire.