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Explore the Culture and History of Europe's Oldest Jewish Community
On this private tour of Rome's Jewish Ghetto we'll spend roughly 3 hours touring the oldest Jewish community in Europe, appreciating the legacy of the first Jewish merchants who traversed the Tiber into ancient Rome. We'll discover the remnants of the communities they built, and learn all about the rich heritage of a neighborhood that has been a center of faith and worship since the Middle Ages. Join us as we stroll the streets of the quarter once designated as the only location Jews could live or work in the city - a neighborhood once enclosed by high walls and plagued by the constantly flooding waters of the Tiber river. In this triangular enclave in the heart of the historic center we'll admire one of the Eternal City's most beautiful fountains as well as the ruins of ancient Rome's most spectacular theatre. Most importantly, we'll get to the heart of Rome's Jewish community's center of worship since the early 1900s.
On this private tour we'll walk the narrow streets that wind their way toward the river, exploring the Tiber Island before crossing to the other bank and reaching Trastevere. The original home of Roman Jews from ancient times, here we'll see the ruins of one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. Along the way we'll also stop to enjoy some of the tempting delights at the Kosher bakeries and pizzerias in this historically rich section of Rome.
Rome has had a Jewish population for over 2,000 years. Emigration into the ancient world's greatest metropolis began around 140 BC, when Jews came to the fertile banks of the Tiber river and were absorbed into Roman society as traders, merchants, diplomats and slaves. Jewish traders from Israel first settled in the neighbourhood of Trastevere and by late antiquity over 30,000 Jews lived and worked in the city.
Today, one can see the remains of the ancient Trastevere synagogue that once stood in what remains one of Rome's most characteristic quarters even today. As the Middle Ages rolled around the Jewish community had shifted to the eastern banks of the Tiber. Their fortunes took a tragic turn for the worse in 1555, when the community was confined to a segregated area called the “ghetto” by Pope Paul IV. This was the period of the Counter-Reformation, when Catholicism was becoming more militant and hostility towards religious minorities was on the rise. Almost 5,000 Jews were walled into this tiny flood-prone area of only 7 acres and subjected to harsh restrictions on their civil liberties - curfews, limited work possibilities and the obligation to wear identifying yellow hats or scarves amongst them. The walls were finally torn down in the late 19th Century, but the Jewish Ghetto remains a distinctive area of Rome that is still the centre of the city's Jewish community even today.
The quarter's maze of cobblestoned streets are studded with kosher bakeries and restaurants, and make for one of our most atmospheric private tours in Rome. One of the real jewels of the Ghetto is Piazza Mattei, home to one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome: the Fountain of the Turtles is a 16th-century masterpiece designed by Giacomo della Porta, a landmark of Renaissance sculpture. The turtles were added by none other than the Baroque master Gianlorenzo Bernini in the 17th century.
Nearby Via della Reginella offers a snapshot of what life in the Ghetto was like during the days of confinement. The narrow street is lined with buildings stretching seven stories high- a testament to the tenements Jews were forced to build upwards due to the cramped quarters of the ghetto. Further into the quarter is the piazza between Portico d'Ottavia and Tempo Maggiore, where Jews were rounded up before being deported under Nazi occupation. A plaque commemorates this piazza as the location where over 1,000 Roman Jews were taken to become victims of the Holocaust. Only 16 returned.
Towering over the Tiber from its riverside perch, the Synagogue of Rome is a unique and beautiful testament to the restoration of Rome's Jewish community to their rightful place in the city, completed in 1905. In contrast to the innumerable Baroque monuments of Rome, the synagogue adopts Persian and Babylonian architectural designs and striking eastern artistic adornments. Inside, a museum chronicles the presence of Jews in the Eternal City from the time before Christ through to their persecution under the Fascist regime, culminating in their deportation on Hitler's orders.
The Jewish quarter is also home to one of the oldest standing and best preserved theatres of Ancient Rome. The Teatro Marcello was originally constructed by Julius Caesar and completed after his death in 11 B.C. by the emperor Augustus. This vast amphitheater, named after his favorite nephew and son-in-law, was one of the greatest theaters of ancient Rome.
Join us on this unique Rome private tour to discover a vitally important but often forgotten chapter of the Eternal City's fascinating history.
Your guide will meet you in front of La Feltrinelli's book store in Largo Torre Argentina.
This is a walking tour through the centre of Rome. Comfortable shoes and a bottle of water are highly recommended
Peter and Karen Sauter
Sep 17, 2019
Jul 23, 2019
Our guides are fluent in English and have a contagious passion for Rome's inspiring cultural heritage. Experts in their fields, they will immerse you in the hidden histories and intriguing lives of history's great protagonists. So much to see, so easy to miss out: with the help of our guides, visit the most absorbing sites and uncover the stories that have changed the world. Don't miss this fascinating journey!