The Jewish ghetto must be one of the most fascinating areas of Rome. Many people are unaware of the fact that there once was a Jewish ghetto in Rome. The fact is that the Jews came directly from the Holy Land before the Diaspora, first arriving in Rome in the second century B.C. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest in the whole of Europe. Nowadays there are only about 15000 jews that live in Rome but the things that their ancestors built can still be seen in the Jewish ghetto and in the Trastevere area. The jews that live in Rome have never moved away from here, they have been through so much, yet their traditions and values remain the same while living a Jewish life in a society based around christianity. It’s a common misconception to believe that Rome is only the city of Christianity; jews are the most authentic Roman citizens! Roman jews have even managed to preserve their own dialect, the Giudeo-romanesco with its 16th century dialectical forms and a free use of “romanized” Hebrew words!
The ghetto was built in 1555 and was controlled by the papacy until the capture of Rome in 1870. For centuries the jews were confined in a walled area with three gates that were locked at night. And not only they were confined in the ghetto, they also had to put up with professional and economic restrictions.
The Jewish ghetto, with its complex variety of history, architecture and tradition it’s a neighbourhood you must visit! As you stroll through the alleys and squares you will see amazing examples of Roman and Medieval architecture.
Places you have to see:
-The Great Synagogue
-Portico d’Ottavia, one of the most charming passageways in Rome, built in 146 B.C. to replace the Porticus Metelli, to enclose the two temples of Juno Regina and Jupietr Stator. It was restored during Emperor Augustus’ reign, who dedicated it to his sister, Octavia. In Medieval times, over the ruins of the Portico, a large fish market was erected as well as a church, Sant’Angelo in Pescheria.
-Teatro Marcello, one of the oldest theaters to have survived until the present day. At first sight it looks like a smaller version of the Colosseum, but as you take a closer look you can see the differences; first of all the Teatro Marcello is semicircular! If you are lucky you can even listen to one of the many open-air, classical music concerts that take place here in the summer.
-The Turtle Fountain, hidden in a square in the Jewish ghetto, this fountain is a little gem, considered to be a jewel of the renaissance sculpture and one of Rome’s most exquisite fountains.
The Ghetto is also full of restaurants, where you will be able to try delicious Jewish-Roman dishes, like the “carciofi alla giudia” (Fried artichokes). And you must stop at the Jewish bakery, you won’t regret it!! My favourite restaurant is “Ba ‘Ghetto”, you have to try it!!