The Secret History of Museo Faggiano


We walked through Lecce and followed Google maps to find the property which opened to the public as a museum in April 2008. But for the signs on the wall, it would have been quite easy to miss at its address of 56 Via Ascanio Grandi. We were all fascinated by the story behind the building and were keen to explore it for ourselves. But how did a problem with sewage pipes turn the Faggiano’s ordinary home into a museum?


Faggiano Museum


Nobody wants to be faced with problems with sewage pipes, do they? I mean, all that trouble and disruption in your home and all that work and effort and expense to sort out the offending problems. It’s something none of us really wants to deal with and a headache that nobody needs. And so you brace yourself for the upheaval and the work that correcting the issue entails. You hope there won’t be too much disruption. Hopefully you can contain the dust so the kids don’t create decorative footprints all over the house and hopefully it won’t cost too much to sort out. Hopefully you’ll be back to normal within weeks.


museo faggiano sign


That’s probably what the Faggiano family hoped for. In fact, Mr Faggiano estimated the work would only take a week or so to do. If only the offending pipes were the only discovery that would disrupt their lives.


museo faggiano pottery in crate


It soon became apparent that the property would no longer be fulfilling Mr Faggiano’s plans to turn it into a trattoria.  What should have been a straightforward job to locate a faulty sewage pipe in fact led to the astonishing discovery of artefacts dating back an incredible two thousand years.


museo faggiano wheel


What was originally expected to be a week’s work turned into seven years of hard, gruelling labour. While the Cultural Heritage of Taranto supervised the excavation works under the guidance of Franco and Maria Antoinietta De Paolis, the excavation works and finance were met entirely by the Faggiano family themselves.


museo faggiano silo


The property was bought with little work to do on it, or so it appeared. It had fresh, white walls and a brand new heating system and was perfectly suited to the family’s requirements, with their plans to live in the upper rooms and open a trattoria on the ground floor. The only problem that emerged was the one issue of the sewers which would need to be dealt with before their plans could further proceed.


museo faggiano Bel walking over silo


Mr Faggiano and his three sons set about the work, unprepared for what they would discover. As they broke ground and dug deep in search of the pipe, they found a false floor that led down to another floor of medieval stone. From here, a Messapian tomb was discovered.


museo faggiano view of the family below in the cistern


Mr Faggiano and his sons continued to dig and dig, finding more and more hidden rooms and artefacts as they did so. Mr Faggiano’s wife knew nothing about the discovery to begin with. She pointed at Eddie and told us how their youngest son was only his age when he was lowered down into openings by a rope tied around his belly in order to dig and tunnel through them. Mr Faggiano had kept this secret from her for a while, knowing that she wouldn’t be too thrilled with her son being descended into the unknown by a rope!


museo faggiano metal staircase down to cistern


There is toughened glass secured over the holes revealing the floors beneath and staircases enabling visitors to venture down and discover the hidden tunnels and tombs for themselves, in a somewhat safer and cleaner manner than the Faggianos undertook to unveil it.


museo faggiano metal staircase


Ancient stone canals were uncovered and found to run rainwater to a bell-shaped cistern excavated in the rock below.


museo faggiano exploring


A recess used to draw water between the floors was also uncovered. It was found to be connected to a second cistern in the second room via a tunnel. All of this can be accessed for visitors to see…


museo faggiano cistern interior


Every single room led to more and more discoveries – and more and more work. And more and more secrets. Like this ‘Dead Dryer’, a 7 metre deep ditch in which corpses would be hung to dry before burial…




Or this baby’s tomb which was discovered under the doorway of the fifth room…


museo faggiano baby tomb


16th century frescoes were revealed…


museo faggiano looking at fresco


A wall decorated with majolica tiles was also uncovered. These tiles were manufactured in the 18th century and were used to protect the walls from water.


museo fabbiano Majolica tiles


A vertical canal made from terracotta pots can be found running down the wall of the fifth room, giving visitors a fascinating glimpse into how rainwater was channelled down during medieval times. The shards of pottery embedded into the wall was an ingenious method of drawing in any damp from the masonry into the ceramics themselves…


museo faggiano pot drainage and pottery in wall


And countless fragments of pottery, only some of which is displayed here, with the rest held by the Cultural Heritage of Taranato…


museo faggiano pottery collection


Storage silos were discovered which would have been used for grain or cereals as well as a circular millstone.


museo faggiano second room


How fascinating it was to explore the secret escape tunnels, wondering who would have hidden in them and from whom they would be hiding…


museo faggiano tim looking through escape tunnel


Every room had a secret past, one that had been kept hidden until the day Mr Faggiano decided to embark on what should have been a relatively simple home improvement project…


Museo Faggiano Bel peeking through gap in wall


Each room’s secrets led to more discoveries…


museo faggiano glimpse into next room


From its very depths…


faggiano museum looking down cistern from top floor


To its very heights…


faggiano museum lookout point


A stairway made of the famous Lecce stone leads to the top of the watchtower which has far-reaching views across the old city walls.


faggiano museum from watchtower


The turret at the top of the building dates back to the 14th century. You can even see a fresco within its base which illustrates a church’s facade.


museo faggiano


Back inside the building and in the hall of the first floor, you can see a median cross ceiling vault built of tuff ashlers, the construction of which is completed with the use of hundreds of terracotta pots.


faggiano museum top floor ceiling with cross and bottles


A window featuring the ‘Flower of Life’ is displayed in the upper rooms, the geometric flower being a symbol used in the Templar iconography in order to ward off evil. This symbol can be found etched within the walls of the museum, proving not only the building’s sacredness but also of the Templar Order’s