The final resting place of the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa painting has reportedly been found in Florence, Italy.
Professor Silvano Vinceti is leading the hunt for Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo who is widely believed to be the mystery woman behind the 500-year-old painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
The crypt was discovered under the floor of the St Ursula convent in Florence after a two-week search by experts using ground penetrating radar and ancient maps.
Professor Vinceti told the Telegraph: 'We are roughly where the altar stood and we have found not one crypt but two, one is older than the other and we believe that one of them is that of Lisa Gherardini.
'We are still a long way to go and we will have to work several more days before we actually reach the tomb and open it to recover the bones.
'So far we have found some beautiful bits of pottery and old bones but the real discovery is still to be made – when we reach the crypt and open it to see if there are any remains.'
Natalia Gucciardini Strozzi, the Italian princess ancestor of Gherardini, was present at the dig.
Initially she had opposed it saying her relation should be allowed to 'rest in peace' but now she is giving it her backing after meeting Professor Vinceti and his team.
She explained: 'At first the thought of the dig horrified me but now I am fascinated, I find it interesting to think that this is the final resting place of one of my ancestors.'
Lisa Gheradini, who died in 1542, was the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo, and, in fact, in Italy the painting is known as La Gioconda'.
The aim of the dig is to find Mona Lisa's remains, compare her DNA with that of two of her children buried in Florence's Santissima Annunziata church, then reconstruct her face and compare it to Leonardo's painting.
Check out the best museums and galleries for 2011, below:
The best new museums and galleries for 2011
America's Sunshine State might seem like an unlikely place to find the world's most substantial collection of Dali's art works. Yet this new $36 million-space in St Petersburg holds more pieces by the Spanish master than anywhere else in the world: 2,140 works including 96 oil paintings. For more information, visit thedali.org
Liverpool's swanky new cultural space on its lovely Victorian dockside (due to open this summer) will tell the story of the city and demonstrate its unique global contribution. Exhibitions will showcase popular culture while tackling social, historical and contemporary issues. Expect a substantial collection of Beatles memorabilia (rare Russian nesting Ringo dolls, anyone?). For more information, go tothedali.org liverpoolmuseums.org.uk.
MAS opens to baited breath this May, housing works from Antwerp's obsolete Ethnographic, National Shipping and Folklore museums. The launch of the long-awaited waterfront space is not simply the next "hot" European cultural hub but also an earnest attempt to show the world what a powerful port the Belgian city once was.
Just when you think the Gulf States' attempts to attract the tourist dollar can't get any more ostentatious, up pops another multi-gazillion dollar cultural monolith. This gallery looks like a floating palace and the treasures inside, rare calligraphy, jewellery and paintings from across the Islamic world, are just as fantastical. For more information, visit qma.com.qa
Steven Spielberg put Kazimierz, Krakow's Jewish Ghetto on the map with the filming and release of Schindler's List. Housed in the metal goods factory where the eponymous German industrialist gave Jews employment to protect them, this new interactive museum tells the harrowing story of life in Poland during the Second World War.
This redbrick 19th century customs building, designed by the prolific Swedish architect responsible for Stockholm's iconic NK department store, made its debut as a photography gallery when it opened last summer with a major Annie Leibovitz retrospective. Alongside a huge programme of exhibitions, there are workshops, talks and what looks set to be the city's hippest new restaurant. Visit fotografiska.eu for more.
This spring, one of Bath's key cultural sites completes a three-year refurbishment programme. The impressive new contemporary extension to the Grade 1 Georgian Listed Building will accommodate much more of the Holburne Museum's extensive collection, including oils by Old Masters like William Hoare, Italian bronzes and ornate 17th century furniture. For more information, visit cracowlife.
Get up close and persönlich with Freud, Mozart, Johann Strauss and Arnold Schwarzenegger at Vienna's Prater Park this March when it opens the Austrian branch of Madame Tussaud's. And the promise is that will be no velvet ropes or bouncers to keep you from your waxy idols... so you're free to get as friendly as you like.
The Eternal City's newest gallery comes with curvaceous architecture that's as show-stopping as the art it houses. Follow your nose around this space dedicated to art of the XXI (21st) century, as architect Zaha Hadid hasn't pre-ordained a route or chronology, making for a magical mystery tour of works by the likes of Warhol, Anish Kapoor and Gilbert and George. For more info, visit fondazionemaxxi.it