Lucian Faggiano, 60 and his family had great plans to open a restaurant. He had his heart set on a trattoria, which he, together with his sons, would run. They bought a building in Lecce, Puglia, in the south of Italy and set to work renovating it. Unfortunately all the work was put on hold because of a blocked toilet. That’s when the fun started…
In the attempt to fix the toilet, they had to dig down to find the pipe. Not only did Lucian come across a Messapian tomb built some 2,000 years ago, but he also discovered a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel and etchings which are thought to have been made by the Knights Templar.
Lecce, which is located at the heel of what is called Italy’s ‘boot’, was once an important trading post for the Romans, because it was a crossroads in the Mediterranean. However, signs of cities date right back to the time of Homer, according to local historian Mario de Marco.
“The very first layers of Lecce date to the time of Homer, or at least according to legend,” said Marco . “Each one of these populations came and left a trace.”
Marco also says that it is not unusual for relics to turn up in fields, or even in the middle of the city. Recently a Roman amphitheatre was found underneath a marble column in the main square. Another interesting find was the Roman temple which was discovered under a car park.
A member of the city council, Severo Martini, says that whenever you dig a hole, you uncover centuries of history. Legend has it that the city of Lecce was founded by the Messapii, who are said to have been Cretans in Greek records, but then the settlement was called Sybar.
When Lucian and his sons examined the excavation further, they discovered that the Roman room had been used to store grain. They thought that in the Franciscan chapel the nuns had prepared the dead. They also found many old pots and a ring.
All sorts of interesting nooks and crannies were uncovered, with shafts leading deeper to much older parts. No one could have ever predicted what lay beneath the ordinary building!
Not wanting to delay the opening of the restaurant, Lucian was hesitant to tell his wife about the find, although this may also have been down to the fact that he was lowering his youngest boy Davide, then 12, through the gaps in the floor!
“I made sure to tell him not to tell his mama,” he said.
His wife – as most wives will – suspected something by all the laundry which she was required to wash, and the secret was out. “We had all these dirty clothes, every day,” she said. “I didn’t understand what was going on.”
After watching the Faggiano men haul away debris in the back seat of the family car, neighbors also became suspicious and notified the authorities. Investigators shut down any further work on the restaurant, warning Mr Faggiano he was conducting an unofficial archaeological dig.
After eight years and still no restaurant, you may find the Museum Faggiano which allows you to view the excavations below the house. Lucian admits that he has become fascinated by the excavation that took place beneath his restaurant, but remembers when he wanted to just brick it all up and get his restaurant off the ground.
Lucian still has dreams to open his restaurant, but he thinks he will research the area and open it one with no ruins underneath.
Google maps gives you a bird’s eye view of some of the passageways and staircases which have been uncovered and cleaned, and are now ready to be seen. Visitors can go down staircases and take a look for themselves.