Museo Faggiano – the accidental museum

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In the old streets of Lecce you will find an old house. The house was bought by Luciano Faggiano so he could open a little local trattoria in the old house. But there was a problem – the toilet wasn’t working properly so it had to be fixed before he could open his restaurant. So he got the permits to go and fix the pipe which was leaking so he could fix the toilet. Or he thought he got the permits.

Sign of the knights templar

He had only obtained permits from the city – and it turns out if you dig more than a couple of inches below ground in the old town of Lecce you will need the permit from the archeological department of the region. So one day during the plumbing work a representative from the archeological authorities of the area showed up unannounced. The archeological officer said there were ancient treasures in the ground so they had to stop the digging and wait for an archeological excavation to take place first. Unfortunately there were no funds available for a dig for the foreseeable future so Luciano Faggiano would just have to wait for funds to become available and find another place to have a trattoria and live in the meantime.

Luciano didn’t want to wait for funds to become available so he suggested he and his sons could do the excavation under the supervision of the archeologist. This was agreed upon. They thought the dig would take a week and then they could fix the toilet and open the trattoria. Apparently they had to dig not just below the surface so they could restore the plumbing – but sufficiently deep so they would reach the bedrock and there were no more archeological artefacts to be found under the house. The boys started digging and their father used his old car to drive the dirt away. After a week they were pretty far from finish. After a month there really was no end in sight of the digging. After a year they still had to dig further into the ground and drive away more dirt to find old pottery and other ancient artefacts. The same was the case after two, three and yeah five years. Finally after seven years the archeologist declared the dig was finally finished and there were no more artefacts to be found in the ground under the house.

By now Luciano and his sons thought about what to do next – should they just open the trattoria in the house? They decided after all this effort digging for seven years it was no longer enough just to open the trattoria with a little hole in the ground to entertain the guest with a funny story. Instead they opened a museum in the house so the public can go and see what is hidden behind the floor. When we arrived at the museum one of Luciano’s sons told us the story of the house which made it as an article in the New York Times as well. He spoke decent English and was pretty engaged in telling the story making it interesting to listen to him. They also had made small guides in many different languages including to my surprise Danish – translated by an acquaintance of the family from Denmark. Though I preferred the English version assuming the translation in this version would be more reliable than the Danish version.

Article from New York Times

The ground where the house is standing has been populated since the long before Christ and the when they did the dig of the house they found artefact from Messapian times which was the old Greeks who came most likely from Crete to found a settlement which today is Lecce. There were also artefact from the Roman times and there is a signed carved into the wall by the Knights Templars who have been using the house. Back in the day the house was part of a larger convent complex which took up a large area around the house.

You can walk around the house and some of the artefacts found under the house have been returned when the family decided to make it into a museum. According to the son working at the museum this day it is only about one or two percent of what they found – the rest is in a storage somewhere in the Lecce area.

The house is interesting to walk through and see – but I think the story of the house is actually more fascinating than what is actually on display today. Though if you go and visit the house make sure you make it to the roof and take in the view of old Lecce.

I am not sure what the neighbors do if they find a leaking pipe under their floor – but I guess nobody will go and ask permission to dig from the archeological authorities of the Lecce area and just dig down and change the pipe under the cover of darkness.

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