Joining me on a Rome Jewish Ghetto tour is the most intimate and authentic way to discover the Eternal City’s most treasured district. During the three hours we spend together you become part of our community, meeting and interacting with locals. And because my family and ancestors have been integrated into Rome’s Jewish community for 500 years, nobody is better placed than me to narrate its stories.
Rome’s most personal Jewish Ghetto walking tour
I was born and raised in Rome, the latest in a line of Sephardic Jews whose ancestors arrived here half a millennia ago. I was raised in an Orthodox family and attended the Rome Yeshiva where I studied the enduring and eternal bond that binds Jews to the city of Rome.
The question of why we are still here in Rome fascinates me.
Everywhere else across the Diaspora there has been movement, migration. But Rome is unique in the continuity of its Jewish community. We have been here for more than 2,200 years, even predating Julius Caesar, Rome’s most famous historical figure, and have endured centuries of oppression, segregation, and forced attempts at assimilation.
My studies led me to become a tour guide and researcher, where I specialize in our unique connection to the Italian capital. Around a third of Italy’s 45,000 Jews live in Rome. Our community is amply served by the city’s dozen Ashkenazi and Sephardic Orthodox synagogues, but Roman Jews are different. And it’s in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, the small area between the banks of the River Tiber and the pagan temples of the Roman Republic, where you get the most authentic sense of Jewish life in Rome.
Why join me for a Rome Jewish Ghetto tour?
The Internet Age facilitates endless ways of learning about our past. We study Jewish history in academic journals, books, blogs, even TV documentaries. But learning from a storyteller offers something different.
It’s the real-life anecdotes, the sharing of stories about growing up in the shadow of the ghetto, and the warmth and humor with which they’re told that makes a tour so special. My Rome Jewish Ghetto tour blends all these elements, as my guests all attest.[trustindex no-registration=tripadvisor]
My Rome Jewish Ghetto tour addresses the most pressing questions about this district and its community. What happened during the liquidation of the Ghetto? How did my grandparents come to be saved? And how did the Jewish community survive to become one of the strongest and longest-lasting in Rome? Especially given that the Ghetto is surrounded by churches, which the Vatican built to convert us.
Become part of the Jewish community for a day
Everywhere you walk in the Eternal City, you feel the enormous cultural influence the Jewish community exerts. It is impossible to talk about Rome without talking about Roman-Jewish culture. Jewish and Roman history are inexorably intertwined. On my Rome Jewish Ghetto tour, you will discover just how and why this is.
The Ghetto’s historical and architectural legacy is rich. Its kosher restaurants are legendary. And its community is friendly and welcoming while tight-knit and cohesive.
This is a far cry from its past.
Rome’s Jewish Ghetto was once one of the most fetid, squalid areas of the city. Situated on the eastern bank of the Tiber, the Ghetto flooded frequently, as depicted in this painting by Italian artist Ettore Roesler Franz.
In 1800, Pope Pius VII extended the Ghetto as its 9,000 inhabitants were confined to a mere three acres. We’ll explore this extension on my Rome Jewish Ghetto tour, discovering its hidden historical curiosities and looking upon its original walls.
In 1870, the Romans built an embankment along the river to prevent flooding and the Jewish Ghetto went from being one of the worst places to live to one of the best! Walking through the streets of Europe’s oldest ghetto, history will come to life before your eyes, thanks to the stories and little-known facts collected by someone who has made the Roman Jewish experience his life’s work.
My ancestors first came into contact with Rome in 161 BC, when Judas Maccabeus ratified a treaty with the Roman Republic. Jewish presence in Rome was documented shortly afterwards, and over the subsequent two millennia we became integral members of the community,
My Rome Jewish Ghetto tour immerses you in the epicenter of Jewish life. I’ll introduce you to the district’s many wonders as we visit the Fontana delle Tartarughe (Fountain of the Turtles), the Portico d’Ottavia, the sister of the emperor Augustus, and the magnificent Theater of Marcellus, Octavia’s unfortunate son.
As we explore Rome’s Jewish Ghetto, we’ll journey through over two-thousand years of history. Stories of hardship and persecution resonate within the Ghetto’s walls. But this historic neighbourhood also tells a story of salvation – the resilience of our community despite the efforts of the Catholic Church.
What do we see on my Jewish Ghetto tour?
My tours are fully customisable, and I tailor them according to your interests. But these are the main sites we visit on my Rome Jewish Ghetto tour:
- Jewish Museum: Situated in the basement of Rome’s Great Synagogue, Rome’s Jewish Museum exhibits objects and religious artefacts from the 2nd century to the modern day. Its collection is endlessly fascinating, but we’ll seek out the objects with stories, both connected to me and to my community.
- The Great Synagogue: Completed in 1905, after the unification of Italy, the Great Synagogue lies at the very heart of Roman-Jewish life. The synagogue has a special resonance for me and for all members of this close-knit community.
- The Jewish Ghetto: Rome’s Ghetto is Europe’s oldest surviving ghetto. history will come to life before your eyes, thanks to the stories and little-known facts collected by someone who has made the Roman Jewish experience his life’s work.
- The Portico of Octavia: As a boy I would play soccer beneath the Portico of Octavia, using the arch as a goal. When it became an archaeological site, I decided I should change my career and take up tour guiding!
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