The hamlet is called Santa Venera and it is located south of the city of Paestum, not far from the Gate of Justice along the road to Agropoli. When a Cirio factory was built there in 1907 and ancient structures were unearthed, the then superintendent Vittorio Spinazzola immediately understood that, by assonance, the pagan Venus must have been venerated there before the Christian saint. The years went by; when the factory was decommissioned, the landscape of the Sele plain, which used to be overrun by tomatoes, also changed. Work has changed too, as there was no young man from Capaccio who had not picked tomatoes and worked at the Cirio factory at least once.
In the 1950s, other archaeological excavations were made during works to extend the facility, and new excavations were made between the 1980s and 1990s, after the factory was purchased by the State. That’s how we now know for certain that, starting from the 5th century BC and throughout antiquity, that was the site of a sanctuary to the goddess of love. Several marble statues of the goddess were unearthed, as well as items from the whole Mediterranean basin, proving the importance of the sanctuary, which likely overlooked one of the two internal lagoons that surrounded ancient Paestum. However, doubts on the continuity between the cult of the luxurious pagan Venus and the chaste Christian Venera abound: testimonies of the former reach the 3rd century AD, while the latter appears only in the 11th century. Perhaps we will never be sure. Nevertheless, we are waiting for a fixed construction date of the recent project for a splendid and state-of-the-art museum in such a special place, where ancient archaeology combines with industrial archaeology.