Ripping out weeds and pruning the flower beds can feel like brutal, thankless work, but at the end of the day, it’s a cathartic sort of practice. You put your soul into the land, and you’re rewarded with a beautiful garden — an oasis in your backyard.
Well, a man and his son planned for a sweaty afternoon of labor, hoping to install a fence in the backyard of their own in Bristol, England. They started working on the edge of the yard, however, their sweating increased when they made a discovery that threatened to obliterate their planned paradise.
In April of 2018, Los Angeles expat Dom Lowe puttered around his garden in true British fashion. The retired brewery director was ready to adopt all the relaxing habits of a pensioner. Getting his gloves dirty with some gardening seemed like an idyllic start.
On that sunny spring day, Dom recruited his son, Jon, to help him. The backyard space needed a facelift, and their first step in rehabbing the space involved building a fence around the perimeter.
Fortunately, Dom knew his backyard contained a feature that allowed for a bit of cutting corners. He marched to a hole in the less frequented corner of the garden. The fresh ground made for an easy place to begin.
Oil Can Finish
When Dom drove his shovel into the soil, the blade dropped further than anticipated. Good news, he thought. It saved the pair labor digging out the fence. But this was only the first of the surprises from what he believed to be a “cesspit.”
Soon, he realized that hidden beneath the soft soil was a chamber; as they dug into it, they could hear the shovel clanking against objects they wagered were not big rocks. Dom knew his simple landscaping project was about to get a bit more interesting.
Dom Lowe / Facebook
So, Dom lowered himself into the hole and pulled out…a rust-covered but unmistakable glass bottle. Hey, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was still cool to find a treasure buried in the earth. But there was more.
Realizing there was much more packed into the underground hideaway, Jon and Dom handed off one worn antique after another, including a metal iron, a kettle, colander, an OXO gravy tin, and a slew of other rusty household gadgets.
The father and son were thoroughly enjoying their vintage discoveries, until Jon reached into the earth and pulled out a cylindrical object that he couldn’t identify offhand. Rather than spark up a guessing game, Jon saw the calculating look of understanding come across Dom’s face.
To Dom, it resembled the fin-shaped tail end of a piece of a bomb. Luckily, he could tell it was just a discarded piece, not anything dangerous. However, when Jon’s arm pulled out the next object from the pit, Dom’s grin shifted into terror.
“That looks like a bomb to me. Hand it over straight away,” Dom instructed a bewildered Jon. The likelihood that an active explosive found its way into the hole in their back garden was not completely unheard of.
See, in the six months from November 1940 to April 1941, 1,299 people died as a result of bomb raids over Bristol. Those that lived, dealt with the horror of watching their homes, churches, and loved ones collapse underneath the deadly shower of explosives.
The danger didn’t disappear when the German planes flew past. So many bombs were recovered after World War II that the government couldn’t keep track. Millions of tons of explosives were deployed over Europe, including a 4,400 pounder nicknamed “Satan.”
To their credit, Dom and Jon didn’t panic. They knew the history of the Bristol Blitzkrieg but felt assured with their bustling in the pit and the age of the explosive that the bomb was surely inactive. Dom carefully placed the device on the ledge of his fence.
Dom Lowe / Facebook
That’s when, in the most literal sense, they dropped the bomb. Dom and Jon watched in horror as the suspected explosive rolled off the fence and fell through the air. Both men attempted to dive out of the way, fearing the impending blast.
Fortunately, they kept all their limbs. Dom and Jon stood, letting out a relieved giggle as the bomb didn’t explode. Still, they called the police to avoid any foolish catastrophes. Avon and Somerset police officers kept the Lowes company while they waited for the bomb squad.
The Royal Logistic Corps’ bomb squad swooped down over Dom’s backyard. Suddenly, his humor over their find vanished. Potentially, he could have triggered an explosion and obliterated the neighborhood. He felt a twinge of relief that it was up to the experts now.
On first glance, the pros confirmed the suspicions. It was a bomb alright. A German incendiary left behind from over 70 years before. At least Dom felt validated he’d not summoned the calvary over a lawn ornament.
Dom watched the agents enact their protocol to determine if the explosive was live. They used a portable x ray machine to examine the bomb, and thankfully, the agent cut the tension. The bomb was dormant.
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According to the Royal Logistics Corps, stumbling upon an inactive bomb is rather common. It was all part of the German raid tactic. Along with the live explosives, they’d drop a percentage of inactives. That way, the clean up efforts could be potentially as fatal as the raids themselves.
With no risk of explosion, the bomb squad packed up, but they left the Lowes with a memorable parting gift — the dusty old bomb! Dom and Jon relished their discovery on its own, but keeping their historic treasure was better than any old fence.
Dom and his son felt eager to unearth more hidden artifacts in their garden, though sometimes you’re better off looking within the comfort of your home. Across the continent, one man recruited his sons for a plumbing project and what they found in their bathroom transformed their lives entirely.
When Luciano Faggiano drifted off to sleep at night, his dreams were filled with satisfied customers and handmade pasta. After years of brooding over a fictitious menu, the middle-aged man was ready to finally open his own family restaurant.
The only thing keeping Luciano from popping on a chef’s coat was a leaky old toilet. Yup, once he rolled up his sleeves and repaired the troublesome can, he planned to convert his home into an authentic trattoria.
John Linton / Flickr
If location is everything, then the Faggiano family hit the jackpot. Their home was nestled in the quintessential Italian coastal city of Lecce, a place known for its historic architecture and top-notch olive oil.
Ika_pol / Flickr
Before he could start drawing up a floor plan, Luciano had to fix the toilet. Granted, he didn’t really know what he was getting into but how hard could it be? Once he opened up the floor to take a look at the old pipes, he was confident he could remedy the leakage.
Anna Conti / Flickr
Since their house was quite old, Luciano wasn’t sure if the plumbing problem was due to aged hardware or a past patch job. So he enlisted his two sons, one who returned from university, to help with repairs.
Italian American Museum / Facebook
Luciano predicted the project would take a week at most. He wasn’t prepared for longer than that. But once he and the boys unhooked the toilet and moved it aside, they realized this wasn’t your average porcelain throne.
They chipped away into the flooring and hit their first conundrum. Where they’d expected pipes to be had actually been a false layer. Shining their flashlights through years of dust, they saw what was concealed.
No, it wasn’t a Fixer Upper style hardwoods reveal, but a centuries-old floor that was built over. Through the hole they’d burrowed in the bathroom, they could see what looked like an underground chamber.
Buzzing with excitement, Luciano and his sons had to get a better look. The smaller of the sons squeezed his body down into the space to investigate, something they hid from Mama Faggiano at first. Peering around in the darkness, the toilet was no longer a priority.
At first, they opened up a wider entry to the secret room below the ground. Quickly, the project grew as they made further astonishing discoveries. Underneath the family home were a series of ancient passageways and chambers left dormant.
The Faggianos dedicated most waking hours to excavating their bathroom. Naturally, the neighbors soon caught on to the extensive project. Heaps of dirt and rubble were traipsed out of the villa at a suspicious rate. Someone phoned the authorities.
Terry White / Flickr
Local inspectors arrived at Luciano’s doorstep and demanded to see the bathroom. From there, the activity screeched to a halt. Granted, he never sought out to deep dive into Italian underground, he just wanted to patch up a leaky commode. Nevertheless, the excavation was illegal.
Boss-19 / Flickr
The codebook stated digging deeper than 50 cm in an archeologically rich region like Lecce was prohibited. So while it was fun while it lasted, their time playing archeologists was over. Still, Luciano had been lucky.
True, he’d been found guilty of conducting an illegal excavation. But by the skin of his teeth, Luciano avoided fines and jail time. Even still, the family was deflated. All their hard work resulted in a big gaping hole in the floor they were forbidden from touching.
For weeks on end, Luciano eagerly awaited word from the authorities about their verdict. They had to decide how to proceed. Weeks turned to months and months to a year. Luciano had to walk by his tempting bathroom vault each day and resist the curiosities of his own home.
“Italy’s like that,” he said. “If you’re not a policeman or a politician, nothing gets done.” Finally, word came through. Another stroke of good fortune, the digging was allowed to continue, but with one major stipulation…
The Faggianos could resume their excavation, but to Luciano’s chagrin, only with the eyes of a member of the Italian Ministry of Culture looming over his shoulders. His presence was required in case they came across anything of historical significance hidden away.
Even though they had uncovered wild secret chambers, they still had a toilet to fix. Luciano kept hacking away at the walls and aged stone to locate the leaky pipe. Instead, they happened on some impossibly old pavement. On closer examination by the Ministry member, it dated back to the medieval period.
But that was small potatoes compared to where the pavement led next. The boys walked straight into a Mesopotamian tomb! For reference, the last time Mesopotamians hoofed it around Italy was about 500 years prior to the birth of Christ.
Iain B of Over / Flickr
All the family’s energy was focused on exploring the cavern below their house. Both of the Faggiano sons took a break from their studies to help their Dad. It was necessary because finding relics in the tomb became a full-time job.
To date, there were over 5,000 treasures discovered in the tomb. Including one of the family favorites, a Jesuit bishop’s ring encrusted with a cool 33 diamonds. Each day was a new adventure, conducting their own dig and handling valuable artifacts. Then they unveiled a somewhat spooky find…
A mere 32 feet below where the Faggiano’s brushed their teeth was a 15-meter long pit used in the process of mummification. If it weren’t for a leaky sewage pipe, we would all be none would be the wiser.
Inevitably, Luciano came to the realization that his home may not work out as a traditional mom and pop trattoria. The fates clearly intended the historically rich property be used for alternative purposes, so he started planning a new business venture.
Luciano wanted to share the joy of stepping back in time with people outside his family tree. So, he scrapped the eatery idea and resolved to convert his bathroom chambers into a museum. The cavern was practically swimming in interesting artifacts, so he felt people would flock to see them.
Yet again, the Italian authorities put the kibosh on Luciano’s dreams. According to the law, finding ancient relics on your property didn’t equate ownership. Most of the found objects were seized by local officials and displayed in a separate museum.
South China Morning Post
This struck a nerve with the Faggianos. After all, they shelled out all the money to cover the excavation. It was their home that had been uprooted into an archeological site. They hoped some of the relics would be returned, but that was wishful thinking.
What was left in their possession were mostly scraps of valuable artifacts. Despite this blow, the family persevered. They configured their once humble bathroom, now an elaborate entryway to awe-inspiring chambers, into the privately operated Faggiano Museum.
Visitors climbed down via metal spiral staircase to the depths of the multi-level passageways. Luciano teased the museum patrons by replacing the one false floor with glass panels, giving them a glimpse of what was in store.
Each step through the corridors guides the visitors back in time. From the crypt to Templar Knights artistic tributes, an offshoot of the Idume river, and an ancient Roman grain store, their secret “basement” samples a wide gamut of Italian periods in history.
Luciano smiles fondly thinking about the leaky commode that sparked the match. The Faggianos joked that the repair was “the toilet that keeps on giving.” He may not have served fresh orecchiette to drooling patrons in his villa as he planned, but he was granted Buona Fortuna all the same with that defective potty.
As the only independent museum in Lecce, visitors from around the globe flock there. It’s not every day you get to descend into the earth and witness untouched history, but a Polish subterranean landmark offers just that, and then some…
Kraków, Poland, is the quintessential European city. Culture, history, architecture, it has them all. But just outside the bustling city streets, a secret gem, hidden to the eye, makes Kraków a place unlike any other.
Cross the bridge out of the city, and you’ll find the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Centuries old, the mine is now a tourist attraction, and people from all over the world travel to see its hidden grandeur. Rest assured, the mine is more than just an underground cavern of tunnels.
Happy To Visit
In fact, stepping into the Wieliczka Salt Mine is closer to stepping into a royal palace or a cathedral. It’s ornate, a fact made far more impressive when you consider what everything in the mine is carved from.
Aleksandr Pasechnik / Flickr
Rock salt! And up until 2007, Wieliczka was a working mine! They produced regular old table salt, the kind you may have once sprinkled on your fries or used to give your last meal a little extra something.
In medieval times, when the mine was founded, salt was a highly valued commodity. Its preservative properties were unmatched, and a mine like Wieliczka meant riches for the taking. For hundreds of years, it was one of Europe’s most profitable businesses.
The Vintage News
Naturally, the wealthy frequented the mine for business dealings, but the miners were the backbone of it all. They spent their working lives picking at the caves walls and carving out the beautiful structure — and more — in the process.
When the mine opened in the 13th century, miners began constructing figures from salt for fun. The job trapped them underground for the sunlight hours, so the miners took it upon themselves to make their space feel vibrant.
Pamela / Flickr
The tradition of carving designs in the mines began as a way to honor St. Kinga, the patron saint of salt miners. In fact, Legends say Princess Kinga came to Poland from Hungary to marry Polish prince Bolesław the Pious.
The Vintage News
Before leaving Hungary, the princess tossed her engagement ring down a mine shaft. Then she set off to Poland. She traveled to Krakow with a team of miners, and when they arrived, she instructed them to dig.
They hit something solid! A huge lump of salt. The miners broke open the lump, and nestled inside was the Princess’ engagement ring! From then on, she was their patron saint and kept miners safe and secure during their forays into the earth.
PabloClavo / Flickr
The chapel built in her honor was adorned with the most lavish embellishments of the entire mine. Skilled artists were brought in to furnish the space. One such artist, Antoni Wyrodek, carved a tribute to da Vinci’s “Last Supper” out of salt.
Antonio Vaccarini / Flickr
At 443 feet deep and over nine levels down, miners constructed breathtaking chambers. Many of these chambers are stunning chapels that draw the eyes upwards.
The Vintage News
But it was at 330 feet below the surface the miners built their masterpiece. The most famous chapel, dubbed the “crown jewel” of Wieliczka mine, is the Chapel of St. Kinga. Actually, it’s one of the largest underground church structures in the world.
Get Your Guide
In more recent years (since the mine opened to the public), and leaders added a sculpture of Pope John Paul II to the chapel. But continuing to commission artwork for the worship space doesn’t make much sense unless it’s being enjoyed, right?
Catholic News Agency
The present-day owners of the mine agreed the space should be utilized. Every Sunday, holy mass is held in the chapel. Lucky sweethearts can also use the space to tie the knot! Still, the Chapel of St. Kinga isn’t the only area people can wander through…
Wedding In Salt Mine
If you walked the 2,000 chambers of the mine, it would take about two full months! That’s a lot of real estate! Lots of businesses pounced on the potential of the salt mine to draw curious customers.
A few of the saline chambers host a health resort that’s been around since 1839. The resorts offer a slew of different services: massages, salt baths, and overnight “health sleep.” Relax as your body adjusts to the conditions of a “salt microclimate.”
Millions walk through the Krakow Saltworks Museum annually, learning the ins and outs of its history. But for those looking to take their experiences a little further, there are other underground services, too…
The Vintage News
You can, for instance, take a step into a salt miner’s shoes! The Miner’s Route expedition is an intense trek through the less-developed chambers. Don’t worry, a professional guides the tours. Bonus: you get a cool spotlight helmet.
Contemporary artists also showcase their works in certain chambers. Other chambers are occupied by bars and restaurants, and even rented out for conferences.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The miners of Wieliczka could never have imagined their craftsmanship would be marveled at by millions. But if any of them were wandering the caverns and chambers today, they’d surely be delighted!