A search for a sewage pipe beneath an Italian restaurant yielded two centuries worth of history.
Lucian Faggiano bought the building in Lecce, Puglia in the south of Italy and had planned to turn it into a trattoria – but renovations were put on hold when he discovered a toilet on the site was blocked.
And while attempting to fix the toilet he dug into a Messapian tomb built 2,000 years ago, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel, and even etchings thought to be made by the Knights Templar.
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Lucian Faggiano’s dream of opening a restaurant was scuppered when a dig to find a blocked sewage point yielded some 2,000 years of hidden history, including vast rooms and pottery (shown in this image that features Mr Faggiano left and his son)
In a bid to stop the sewage backing up, Mr Faggiano, 60, and his two sons dug a trench and instead of isolating the offending pipe found underground corridors and rooms beneath the property on 56 Via Ascanio Grandi,The New York Times reported.
Lecce, at the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ was once a crossroads in the Mediterranean and an important trading post for the Romans.
But the first layers of the city date to the time of Homer, according to local historian Mario De Marco.
Eight years after it was meant to open as a restaurant, the building has been turned into Museum Faggiano (pictured) and a number of staircases allow visitors to travel down through time to visit the ancient underground chambers discovered by the family
He imagined it would take a week to dig down and fix the plumbing beneath the building, but instead, the DIY mission led to the discovery of a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary (pictured left), a Franciscan chapel – and even etchings from the Knights Templar. An ancient room beneath the modern building is shown right
The search for the pipe (shown in this image of Mr Faggiano and his son) began at the turn of the millennium when no-one could have predicted the treasures hidden beneath the floorboards, which revealed a subterranean world dating back to before the birth of Jesus
It is not unusual for religious relics to turn up in fields or in the middle of the city itself, which has a mixture of old architecture
For example, a century ago, a Roman amphitheatre was recently found beneath a marble column bearing the statue of Lecce’s patron saint, Orontius in the main square and recently a Roman temple was found under a car park.
‘Whenever you dig a hole, centuries of history come out,’ said Severo Martini, a member of the City Council.
Years of excavations have seen the emergence of Roman devotional bottles, ancient vases and a ring with Christian symbols as well as hidden frescoes and medieval pieces. Here, Mr Faggiano carries a piece of Roman pottery from an underground room
The building yielded plenty of nooks and crannies including mysterious shafts (pictured left and right) which lead to older parts of the building deeper and deeper underground
Lucian Faggiano bought the seemingly standard building in Lecce, Puglia in the south of Italy, (marked on this map) but his dream of turning it into a trattoria was put on hold thanks to a broken toilet. Lecce, at the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ was once a crossroads in the Mediterranean and a trading post for the Romans
THE HISTORY OF LECCE
The origins of Lecce in southern Italy are thought to be more than 2,000 years old.
It was founded by the Messapii, who are said to have been Cretans in Greek records, explaining the city’s Greek culture.
According to legend, a city called Sybar existed at the time of the Trojan War and was founded by the Messapii.
It was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, who gave it the name Lupiae, which later became Lecce.
Under the emperor Hadrian, in the second century AD, the city moved two miles (3km) northeast, got a theatre and an amphitheatre and was connected to the Hadrian Port.
Oronotius of Lecce, who is known as Sant’Oronzo is thought to have served as the city’s first Christian bishop and is now Lecce’s patron saint.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was sacked by king Totila in the Gothic Wars.
After that it was conquered once again by the Byzantines in 549 and remained part of the Eastern Empire despite some small conquests.
After the Normans arrived in the 11th century, Lecce grew in commercial importance again, having been an important trading post in Roman times.
It grew rich and became one of the most important cities in southern Italy, evidenced by its many impressive Baroque monuments.
Plague broke out in the 17th century and the city was briefly home to Allied fighters fighting the Nazis in the Second World War.
Mr Faggiano asked his sons to help fix the problem with the plumbing so he could accelerate the opening of his restaurant, in a building that looked like it was modernised.
But when they dug down they hit a floor of medieval stone, beneath which was a Messapian tomb, built by people who lived in the area before the birth of Jesus.
Legend has it the city was founded by the Messapii, who are said to have been Cretans in Greek records, but then the settlement was called Sybar.
Upon further investigation, the family team also discovered a Roman room that was used to store grain, and a basement of a Franciscan convent where nuns were thought to have once prepared the bodies of the dead.
Afraid of costs and the delay in opening the restaurant, Mr Faggiano initially kept his amateur archaeology a secret from his wife, in part perhaps because he was lowering his youngest son, Davide, 12 though small gaps in the floor to aid his work.
But his wife, Anna Maria Sanò suspected the work was more complex than it appeared thanks to the amount of dirty clothes she was washing, and because of dirt and debris being taken away.
Investigators shut down the site, warning Mr Faggiano he was conducting an unofficial archaeological dig.
After a year, work continued but had to be overseen by heritage officials who witnessed the emergence of Roman devotional bottles, ancient vases and a ring with Christian symbols as well as hidden frescoes and medieval pieces.
Retired cultural heritage official, Giovanni Giangreco, who was involved with the excavation, said: ‘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.’
Afraid of costs and the delay in opening the restaurant, Mr Faggiano initially kept his amateur archaeology a secret from his wife. Here, he sorts though pieces of glass and pottery found in one of the rooms. There are even pieces embedded in the wall