There was a time when the remains of the Temple of Apollo, in Ortigia (Syracuse), were embedded in the surrounding houses, built over centuries of urban stratification and overlap, making the ancient 6th-century-BC structure virtually invisible.
Indeed, it was not until the 19th century that some began to wonder about the precious temple, whose vestiges surfaced here and there: the oldest Doric temple in Sicily, which over the years had been transformed into a Byzantine church, an Islamic mosque, a Norman church and, finally, a Spanish barracks.
Chronicles of the time often mention Matteo Santoro, a notary whose apartment walls included two Doric, sixteen-groove columns even Ferdinand Gregorovius mentioned in his diary, “Years of Wandering in Italy”.
Curious travelers often knocked on the door of the poor man, who patiently granted them permission to come in so they could see the wonder of those ancient remains stuck in the walls of a modern apartment.
Unfortunately for Syracuse’s notary, at one point the Municipal Antiquities and Fine Arts Commission also knocked at the door, and their inspections ultimately led to Santoro’s apartment being demolished.
Today, the whole city can enjoy the temple’s beauty, brought back to light – also thanks to the “sacrifice” of a poor notary.