Fifteen years ago, Luciano Faggiano of Lecce, Italy sent his sons out digging for a broken sewer line. They didn’t find the pipe, but they did find “a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel and even etchings from the Knights Templar,” writes Jim Yardley in a story for the New York Times.
Faggiano was trying to open a trattoria—hence the toilet fixing—but he ended up creating an underground museum. Descending into the Museo Fagganio today is like descending through the city’s history, with stops in the Roman, medieval, and Byzantine eras.
In ancient cities, where the new has continually been built upon the old, archeological discoveries by way of construction projects is not unusual . But the story of one family’s quest to uncover the forgotten history of their building has a particular charm. When Faggiano first asked his eldest sons to dig to a sewer pipe, they had no idea what they were getting into:
But one week quickly passed, as father and sons discovered a false floor that led down to another floor of medieval stone, which led to a tomb of the Messapians, who lived in the region centuries before the birth of Jesus. Soon, the family discovered a chamber used to store grain by the ancient Romans, and the basement of a Franciscan convent where nuns had once prepared the bodies of the dead.
If this history only later became clear, what was immediately obvious was that finding the pipe would be a much bigger project than Mr. Faggiano had anticipated. He did not initially tell his wife about the extent of the work, possibly because he was tying a rope around the chest of his youngest son, Davide, then 12, and lowering him to dig in small, darkened openings.
Don’t worry, no Faggiano sons were hurt in the pursuit of archaeology, and they did eventually find the broken sewer pipe after several years of digging. Of course, they also found so much more.
Read the entire story from the New York Times.
All images via Museo Faggiano