Pirates have freed three Italian sailors they abducted from a ship off Nigeria last month, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Our three sailors are free and will soon return to Italy," Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in a statement, while the ministry said the Italians would be flown back into the country later on Wednesday.
The armed pirates abducted the sailors after attacking the MV Asso Ventuno some 40 nautical miles off Nigeria's Bayelsa state on 23 December.
They were named as Emiliano Astarita, Salvatore Mastellone and Giuseppe D'Alessio from the Campania region in southern Italy.
"We're well, they treated us well," Astarita told his father Franco by telephone on his release, ANSA news agency said.
Terzi said the ministry was "very relieved" because "the conditions in which they were abducted on 23 December were very worrying".
"An armed group boarded the ship and kidnapped them and took them ashore. The critical security situation in the area they were taken caused us particular concern," he told Tg5 television.
The ministry gave no details of a fourth sailor abducted with them, though Italian media said that he was Ukrainian and had been freed along with the Italians.
Terzi thanked the Nigeria authorities who he said had collaborated closely with the Italian foreign office to free the sailors.
Such kidnappings occur regularly off Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region, with hostages typically released after payment of a ransom.
"It is the Italian government's policy not to pay ransoms but to negotiate," Terzi told Radio Rai.
"The success is due to procedures we have honed over the course of the last few years, but especially over the past 13 months" in which "we have brought home in absolute safety over 30 compatriots" who had been kidnapped around the world, he said.
Kidnappings occur both onshore and offshore in the Niger Delta.
A 2009 amnesty deal led to a sharp drop in unrest in the region, but criminality remains widespread, particularly along the country's oil-producing southern coast.
According to the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, there were 51 attacks off Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea in 2012, making it one of the most dangerous areas for seafarers after Somalia.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer and the continent's most populous nation with some 160 million people. The Niger Delta region remains deeply impoverished despite its oil reserves, with corruption rampant.