It’s an incredible story, and it appeared recently on the front page of the New York Times.
Around 2000, Luciano Faggiano bought a supposedly unremarkable building at 56 Via Ascanio Grandi in Lecce, Italy, which is in the region of Puglia, the heel of the boot. His dream was to open a trattoria and have his family live above the restaurant. The only problem was that the toilet didn’t work. So he went in search of the blocked sewage pipe.
What he found instead were centuries of Italian history. Mr. Faggiano found a subterranean world tracing back before the birth of Christ. Layer by layer, the excavations brought to light a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel, and even mysterious etchings thought to be from the Knights Templar.
Today the building at 56 Via Ascanio Grandi is the Faggiano Museum. Spiral stairwells allow visitors to descend through the underground chambers, while sections of glass flooring underscore the building’s historical layers.
The story of this museum born ‘by chance’ is undoubtedly incredible to Americans. But it is very common in Italy and is only one example of hidden treasures probably in every corner of Lecce and in every city in Italy. Whenever you dig a hole in Italy, centuries of history come out. It’s a nightmare for urban planners and developers in BelPaese and a dream for art historians and archeologists. And, as one commentator wrote on the online version of this New York Times story, “Woody Allen couldn’t have written a better story.” In the meantime, Mr. Faggiano, founder of the museum, is still trying to open his trattoria.