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While Trying To Fix His Toilet, This Man Unearthed A Hidden World Of Ancient Treasure

ancient treasure italy

There was only one thing standing in the way of Luciano Faggiano fulfilling his life-long dream of opening an Italian restaurant – a finicky, faulty toilet. He had no idea at the time, but that one fairly standard renovation would take Luciano on a decade-long journey, with many roadblocks along the way. His entire family pitched in to help make Luciano’s dream become a reality but what they’d accidentally find would expose them to a long-forgotten world hidden beneath what had once been their bathroom floor. What eventually became of the restaurant site was nothing like Luciano had originally planned.

1. Big Dreams

Luciano Faggiano was just an ordinary Italian man living in Lucce, Italy, right in the heel of the Italian boot-shaped peninsula. But he had big dreams. He envisioned turning his Italian villa at 56 Via Ascanio Dandi into a large family restaurant.

ancient treasure discovered toilet

Some might be thinking that this would be an easy task, but little did Luciano know at the time that his little project would take over a decade to complete. He would soon find out that turning the ground-level of his home would lead to a discovery of the likes he’d never imaged. Not only that, but seven years later, his restaurant still wouldn’t be completed.

2. The Faulty Toilet

The entire ordeal surrounding the Faggiano restaurant started with a faulty toilet on the ground floor of their home. There was nothing particularly special about this toilet, other than the fact that it was in need of repair. But it would turn out to be much more than a faulty toilet.

ancient treasure discovered toilet

The issue most likely stemmed from a leaky pipe located somewhere under the toilet, or perhaps the main issue was shoddy repairs that had been made to the facilities. The house, after all, was very old and located in a very history-rich area of the world. And this elusive leaky pipe would lead the Faggiano family to stumble onto something truly amazing.

3. A Simple Fix

To tackle the seemingly simple issue Luciano enlisted the help of two of his sons, one of them even came back home from university to help his father with what should have been a relatively quick renovation. The Faggiano home had also recently been refurbished with a fresh coat of paint on the walls and a new heating system and the structure seemed modernized.

ancient treasure discovered toilet

So, the family didn’t think much about the faulty toilet downstairs. They kept the house in near-pristine condition and couldn’t imagine that fixing the bathroom fixture would be much of an issue. Soon, though, they’d discover that it would prove to be much more of a challenge than they’d initially anticipated.

4. A Bigger Issue

Luciano Faggiano’s original dream for his home was to make the ground floor a traditional Italian eatery and keep the upstairs a living quarters for his family. At first, they thought that there was just a faulty pipe that needed to be replaced in the bathroom. They hoped to soon finish the task and move on to other projects. But fate had other plans for them.

ancient treasure discovery

But when the Faggiano family started digging, it quickly became apparent that they were dealing with much more than just a faulty pipe. One of Faggiano’s sons later admitted that: “we soon noticed there was something strange.” But this something strange would turn the family’s entire restaurant dream completely upside down.

5. Just A Week

Initially, Luciano had predicted that his bathroom repair project wouldn’t take longer than a week at most. But he was gravely mistaken. It was a project that would turn into something much larger than he could have possibly imagined. And would have significance of historical proportions.

ancient treasure discovered toilet

The search for the leaky pipe led the Faggiano family to start digging in their bathroom, an attempt to locate the pipe in question. Yet, for some reason that search, which began in 2000, would take years to resolve. It quickly became Luciano’s obsession to find the leaky culprit. But it wasn’t just the leaky pipe that was the issue. When the family started digging, they found something that conjured endless questions.

6. The Faggianos Dig

The family’s efforts to find the elusive pipe that was believed to be the crux of their bathroom issues soon surpassed a week’s amount of time. Amid their efforts, the father and his sons soon discovered that what they’d always believed was their bathroom floor wasn’t what it seemed.

ancient treasure under bathroom

Corriere del Mezzogiorno

The family discovered that, in fact, they’d uncovered a false floor in their bathroom. But the surprises wouldn’t end there. It was what was located underneath the false floor that was all the more incredible. Slowly, as they chipped away at the surface of what they’d though was their floor, the surface gave way to another, much older, floor.

7. A False Floor

It was as if they had mistakenly discovered an entirely new world underneath their bathroom floor. What had started as a small opening soon gave way to a vast underground compound of corridors and chambers that had been hidden under their home. As they further excavated, they came upon remnants from a whole other time period. Although the Faggianos were by no means archaeologists, they surmised that the ruins they started to sift through were from a far bygone era.

ancient treasure italy

Not exactly sure of what they’d accidentally discovered, the family continued their efforts. They even hoisted the youngest and smallest brother into crevices that were too narrow for an adult, all without telling their mother of course. Night and day the Faggianos were digging and taking the debris out of their home. But all of the carting of debris back and forth from the Faggiano’s villa raised suspicions.

8. Illegal Excavation?

The Faggiano’s neighbors took notice of the activities that were going on next door, which would have been hard to miss seeing as the Faggianos weren’t exactly trying to keep their digging a secret. So, the neighbors called the appropriate authorities and reported a possible illegal excavation.

ancient treasure

While the Faggianos had initially just been looking to repair a leaky toilet in their home, they ended up finding much more than they had bargained for. And in this case, they were indeed uncovering ancient relics. That’s when the authorities stepped in and issued an order that could compromise the entire operation.

9. Left in Limbo

The Italian authorities were quick to put an end to the incidental excavation work going on in the Faggiano’s home. Local laws prohibited digging deeper than 50 centimeters (almost 20 inches) in a region that is considered archaeologically rich. Given the history of the nation, one would be hard pressed to find a region that isn’t archaeologically rich.

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Much to his consternation, Luciano Faggiano was found guilty of conducting an illegal excavation on his property. But luckily in his case, the digging operation was only put to a stop. Under Italian law the consequences could have been far worse for Luciano. The operation was put to a halt, but for how long they couldn’t have anticipated.

10. On One Condition

The Faggianos were left waiting to hear back from the government officials on what they were going to do about the archaeological site that they had stumbled upon right under their own roof. Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months before they received an answer.

ancient treasure

“Italy’s like that,” said Luciano Faggiano. “If you’re not a policeman or a politician, nothing gets done.” Luciano waited patiently for an entire year before hearing back from the Italian authorities. And this time it was good news, the Faggianos would be allowed to continue digging under one condition. And that condition would turn out to be disastrous for the Faggiano family.

11. The City’s Condition

Finally, with the approval of the archaeological council, the Faggianos were allowed to continue digging, looking for their elusive leaky pipe on the condition that the dig be closely observed by an expert from the Italian ministry of culture. Even though the Faggianos initially thought such measures were an unnecessary burden and waste of time, they would soon find out just how wrong they were.


So, the Faggiano family resumed what they considered just a messy plumbing job. They were overseen by the official and pretty soon they started finding things that no one had thought possible. They would end up falling straight into a veritable treasure trove.

12. Medieval Findings

Within just a week of renewed excavation, all while still looking for the leaky sewage pipe, the Faggianos started to find items that thrilled the archaeological official assigned to the family. Something lay under the false floor in the Faggiano’s bathroom that was incredibly significant.

ancient discovery italy

Underneath the false floor was a level of pavement which even to the naked eye looked ancient. After further inspection by the archaeological official, it was deemed that the pavement was from the medieval period and an extremely rare find. But it was what that pavement led to which was far more incredible and historically significant.

13. Sitting On A Gold Mine

The medieval pavement led the official to another amazing find, a Messapian tomb. The Messapias were a Greek people who arrived to what is now the Italian region of Puglia around 500 years before the birth of Christ. The artifact was verified by the city official, and it soon became clear that the Faggianos were sitting on top of something far bigger than they could have even imagined.

ancient treasure discovered

Southerly Journal

Both of Luciano’s two eldest sons put their studies on hold to help with the excavation under their family-owned villa, all of which was funded by the Faggianos themselves. Soon thereafter, they also found ancient Roman vases and ancient murals. And the amazing finds didn’t stop there.

14. Jewels and Mummification

The Faggianos found more than 5,000 ancient objects in total. “My favorite was a ring from a Jesuit bishop that contained 33 diamonds,” one of Luciano’s sons commented. And just 10 meters (32 feet) below ground, they stumbled onto another incredible find.

ancient treasure

The Faggianos also found a 15-meter-deep pit that was used in the ancient ritual of mummification. The details of the find were confirmed by the city-appointed archaeologist. Given the unbelievable nature of the treasures found underneath the Faggianos’ bathroom, Luciano eventually changed his mind about converting his family’s residence into a restaurant. Instead, he decided to pursue a different direction.

15. Theft or Fair Play?

Luciano was beyond thrilled with all of the amazing historical findings under his home and pretty soon he began toying with the idea that the house should be made into a museum instead of a restaurant. But that is when something unthinkable happened that threatened the entire museum concept.

ancient treasure

Almost all of the precious articles that were found under the Faggino’s home were confiscated by city officials and placed in a local museum. As it turned out, the concept of finders-keepers didn’t apply to historical relics found under a private residence.  But not all of the artifacts were taken, well, not all of them were taken to the museum, that is.

16. Vanished Artifacts

A good amount of the artifacts that weren’t taken by city authorities and placed in a local museum were taken by the national culture ministry for further review by experts hoping to extract more accurate dates and information about their origins.

ancient treasure

Luciano was hoping that he would get back more of the relics to keep in his own personal museum at his home, but unfortunately, the cards weren’t stacked in his favor. “It’s not clear what’s happened to them all,” he said. “But they seem to have left us mostly the broken pieces.” And Luciano wasn’t about to forget the way he was treated by the city officials.

17. Bits and Pieces

The fact that most of the relics found under the Faggiano home were taken was something of a sore spot with the Faggiano family. Especially seeing as how the family paid for the entire excavation out of their own pocket without so much as a dime from the city council.

ancient treasure discovered under toilet

“It was hard work,” said Luciano. “My sons were digging and I paid for it. The city council didn’t do a thing.” Unfortunately, the majority of items that were left in the hands of the Faggianos were broken shards and incomplete objects. The question at hand would be whether these bits and pieces would be enough for their prospective museum.

18. Faggiano Archaeological Museum

Even though most of the ancient relics and artifacts were taken by the officials, the Faggiano family was still left with enough items to make their own house into something very special. Today, their house, standing at Via Ascanio Grandi 56, Lecce is, in fact, a museum.

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Called the Faggiano Archaeological Museum, the building is now open to visitors from all over the world. The Faggiano Museum is also the only building in the city that has been granted the status of an independent museum. And visitors to the museum can expect to find some very interesting pieces of history.

19. Descending Through Time

At the Faggiano Museum, visitors are able to descend through the multiple underground chambers via a metal spiral staircase. The floors, where the false flooring once stood, are now covered in glass which allows visitors to see the building’s historical layers without disturbing them.

ancient treasure

Atlas Obscura

The Faggiano Museum is a spectacle to behold, allowing guests to explore through various aspects of ancient life. Patrons can wander through a Roman grain store, artwork from the Templar Knights period and even a private subterranean river, known as Idume, that runs under the Faggiano’s building. All in all, the establishment at the Faggiano’s home covered an incredible time range.

20. Millennia Of History

“We have all of Italian history covered,” said Davide Faggiano, one of Luciano’s sons, of the museum. “You can get a cappuccino for your breakfast in our café and then pop over to our museum to see culture starting from 2,500 years ago.” The Faggianos now pride themselves with being able to help preserve Italian history.

ancient treasure

Ancient Origins

The ancient findings under the Faggiano’s home were truly a rare and historical find. The story of their excavation and the opening of their museum went viral, not only around Italy, but the world. But one question has yet to be answered. Did the Faggianos ever fix that leaky toilet that started the whole ordeal?

21. The Toilet That Started It All

In short, the answer is, yes. A few years after the excavations started on the Faggiano’s home, Luciano located the the faulty sewage pipe that he’d been searching for from the beginning. The pipe was replaced and now all is good. Today, the family refers to the toilet as ‘the toilet that keeps on giving.’

ancient treasure

Il Regno

If it hadn’t been for that one leaky pipe causing a sewage problem, the trove of underground ruins would still remain hidden from the world. It was incredible to think that everything had unraveled due to one man’s dream of opening a family restaurant. Which leads to another question – did that restaurant ever become a reality?

22. The Trattoria

Even today Luciano Faggiano’s dreams of opening a family restaurant, or a trattoria as it’s known in Italian, but he has wisely decided that he would do so in a different part of the city – one where he wouldn’t likely unearth thousands of years of Italian history.

ancient treasure

As a self-proclaimed stubborn man, Luciano wasn’t about to let the diversion of his original goal of opening a restaurant in his own home discourage him. It didn’t take Luciano long after work wrapped on his home-turned-museum to get the ball rolling on a newly-envisioned restaurant, even if it wouldn’t be located at the site he had initially hoped for.

23. What Fate Has In Store

Since the grand opening of his museum, Luciano has since purchased a new piece of property (in an area with far less archaeological significance). Construction has already begun as Luciano’s initial dream of opening a family Italian eatery further approaches reality.

ancient treasure

The New York Times

But Luciano agrees that sometimes fate just has other plans in store for you when you’re least expecting it. “Before I was a cook. Now I’m in charge of a museum,” he stated. “It’s amazing what we found in a relatively small area.” He has kept his fingers crossed that he won’t encounter any ancient relics at the new property for his restaurant, but Faggiano’s case is far from the first in the area.

24. Other Archaeological Headaches

Archaeological findings such as Luciano Faggiano’s aren’t exactly rare in the quiet city of Lucce, as the city is very rich in history. According to legend, the city existed as far back as the Trojan War period. Historical artifacts that needed to be diverted have long appeared during construction in the city.

ancient treasure

The historical richness of the area has even plagued municipal construction sites. For example, the city was planning to extend the Lucce subway system until workers ran into an obscene amount of historical artifacts that halted construction multiple times, severely delaying the expansion project. Apart from the relics unearthed during the subway efforts, another ancient relic that stood as a central structure in the city had to be relocated as it stood upon an even older relic of epic proportions.

25.  Saint Orontius

A marble statue of Lecce’s patron saint, Saint Orontius, dominated the city’s central piazza for centuries. That was, until historians discovered that the patron saint was located directly above an ancient Roman amphitheater. For the sake of historical preservation, it was decided that the statue would have to be moved to allow for the excavation of the amphitheater.

ancient treasure


Even the moving of the patron saint Orontius caused a firestorm in the small usually quite city Lucce. But it was eventually relocated and the amphitheater was excavated. So be warned! The next time you think about digging on your property, you never know what historical secrets you might uncover.

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