- “How many times at night were our projectors used only to illuminate the enemies that came out to help the wounded and bury the dead; we could have destroyed them, yet a sense of pity urged us to help them”
- (Enrico Toti in a letter to home in 1916)
Enrico lost his left leg while working for Italian railways, at the age of 24. After his injury he became a cyclist. In 1911, riding on a bicycle with one leg, he cycled to Paris, and then through Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, up to Finland and Lapland. From there, via Russia and Poland, he returned to Italy in June 1912. In January 1913 Toti started cycling again, this time in Egypt; from Alexandria, he reached the border with Sudan where the English authorities, considering the trail too dangerous, ordered him to end the journey, and sent him to Cairo where he came back to Italy. When war broke out between Italy and the Austrian Empire, Toti tried to volunteer for the Italian army but was not accepted due to his injury. Undaunted, he reached the frontline with his bicycle and managed to serve as an unpaid, unregistered, fully non-regulation "civilian volunteer" attached to several units. Forced to leave the combat zone and return home by the Carabinieri (Military Police), Toti stubbornly returned to the front and finally managed to join (still unofficially) the 3rd Bersaglieri Bicycle Battalion. He was killed in the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo. Fatally wounded in a clash, he hurled his crutch at the enemy. Before falling on the ground he shouted: "Nun moro io!" (romanesco vernacular for "I do not die!").
He was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor (Italy's highest award for valour), one of the relatively few civilians to have this honour bestowed on them.
Two submarines of the Italian Navy were named after Enrico Toti:
- Enrico Toti, a Balilla-class submarine, built for the Regia Marina in 1925. She sank HMS Triad in 1940.
- Enrico Toti, a Toti-class submarine, built in 1968 for the Marina Militare, preserved as a museum ship in Milan.