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MIRROR 15/4/2015


Mr. Faggiano just wanted to open a restaurant, but now the site is a museum which bears his family name

In the year 2001 Luciano Faggiano was having difficulty with sewage backing up in the toilet of the building he’d bought – 56 Via Ascanio Grandi, Lecce, Italy.

As he wanted to open a restaurant there, fixing the loo situation was something which needed to be sorted out sharpish. But that meant digging up the floor to find the errant pipe in question – a job he and his sons thought would take about about a week.

Well, not so much.

As Faggiano and his sons dug down they found a false floor, which led down to a floor of medieval stone and then into a Messapian tomb. The Messapians, an Indo-European people, lived in the area hundreds of years before the Romans ruled Italy. So, a very long time ago. Roughly 2500 years.

As they continued to dig they found a chamber which was used by the ancient Romans to store grain, and also the basement of a Franciscan convent used by Nuns to prepare bodies for burial.

New York Times / ReduxLuciano Faggiano, center, in red, and his family dig in a new section of what is now called the Museum Faggiano, in LecceLuciano Faggiano, center, in red, and his family dig in a new section of what is now called the Museum Faggiano, in Lecce

The boys and their father attempted to keep the digging a secret from their mother, however she soon cottoned on. When neighbours spotted the amateur excavators driving debris away the family car, the authorities were called in.

The family got a wrap on the knuckles for conducting an unauthorised archaeological dig and the excavations were halted. A year later Mr. Faggiano was allowed to resume his hunt for the sewage pipe, still not located and which as a result had become something of an obsession for him. Despite knowing what he was sitting on, he still wanted to open his restaurant!

The digging was allowed to continue on the proviso that it would be overseen by archaeological experts.

Giovanni Giangreco, a cultural heritage official at the time of the dig, who was involved in overseeing matters, told the New York Times “The Faggiano house has layers that are representative of almost all of the city’s history, from the Messapians to the Romans, from the medieval to the Byzantine time.”

“I was still digging to find my pipe,” Luciano said. “Every day we would find new artifacts.”

Unsurprisingly the restaurant never happened. The wealth of archaeological material discovered was enough for Luciano to open the building publicly as a museum.

The sewage pipe was eventually found, and the unpleasant toilet backup issues were fixed. Luciano has since bought a new site for a restaurant, where he intends to do as little building work as possible.


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