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Jewish Rome Tours


Jewish Origins in Rome

The first Jews in Rome came directly from Eretz Israel in 160 B. C. It was Chanukah and the Maccabees decided to travel as ambassadors to Rome in order to ask for protection from the Romans against the Syrian King Antiochus who had been giving the Jews in Palestine a hard time. So they came to Rome. This small group of Jews settled and created the first community in the Golah. In 70 A.C. Titus destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem. He brought many Jews to Rome as slaves, as well as the Menorah stolen from the Temple. The Jews living in Rome paid a ransom to liberate their brothers. After 2,000 years the Jews still we thrive here today, after the Inquisition, the persecutions, the Ghetto and the concentration camps. There are only 16,000 Jews in Rome, yet they are the oldest community in this city.

Jewish Neighborhoods

According to Filone, was given to the Jews by Augustus, and was the space included between the Tiber, San Michele and Viale Trastevere.

Il Ghetto
The Ghetto of Rome existed for more than three centuries, from 1555 to 1870. In 1555 Paul IV who decreed its confines and closure, entrusting the work to Silvestro Peruzzi, son of the great architect, Baldassarre Peruzzi.The with eight doors, which later became eleven doors of entrance and various windows were closed and main doors were created at the expense of the Jewish Community which was shut up again, and which felt the need to give themselves mutual support against the alien and hostile environment. The neighbourhood is still inhabited by Jews for the most part and has conserved the mark and the memories of the ancient ghetto (between Via del Progresso, Via del Portico d'Ottavia and the Tiber).

Portico di Ottavia

The first Jewish nucleus, coming from Trastevere, was formed here in the 16th century. The following is to be noted: what remains of the Portico di Ottavia among whose columns the church of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria was built in the year 200 circa, site of the forced sermons during the Ghetto period. The name "in Pescheria" refers to the fish market, which flourished in this area since ancient times. The wider space in front of the portico is the place where, the morning of October 16, 1943, the Nazis parked the truck which was used to deport the Jews captured during the raid. Walking in the direction of the Via Arenula, to be seen on the right is the Vicolo della Reginella, which gives a good idea, together with that of Sant'Ambrogio, of the little streets there before work was done on changing the area. The block between the two small streets, painted red, corresponds to the building added to the Ghetto starting in 1825, under Leo XII, through the intervention of the English Jewish bankers, the Rothschilds, who made large loans to the pontifical treasury. In the nearby Piazza Mattei (walking down Vicolo della Reginella) is the famous Fountain of the Turtles. The Matteis were among the Christian families whose houses were near the Ghetto and who had the keys to the main gates of the Ghetto which were closed when the Ave Maria bells were rung and reopened the next morning from the outside. Behind the Portico d'Ottavia may be seen the apse of Santa Maria in Campitelli: here during the period of the great Nazi danger, the Jews often found fraternal refuge.

The Great Synagogue

There were as many as eleven spread all over the city. The ghetto had five under the same roof near the present Palazzo Cenci. Today in their place rises the large Synagogue (Major Temple) of the Italian rite, on the Lungotevere Cenci. Built in 1904, it has kept the memory of the ancient places of study and prayer and is flanked by an interesting museum. Other important Synagogues are: the Spanish Temple in the same place as the Synagogue but with its entrance on Via Catalana; Ashkenazite Temple in Via Balbo 33; "Di Castro" Oratory (Italian rite) in Via Balbo 33 as well. The architects Armani and Costa who built it were not Jews. The community was still not able to have its own architects. It was inaugurated in the greatest solemnity and devotion. Even now it is frequented by practically all the Roman Jews, even though there are at least five other smaller Synagogues in the city in different neighborhoods. The style is a mixture of "Liberty" and Babylonian art, with evident reference to the style of the time of construction and to the middle-eastern origin of the Jewish religion. It has no pictures or images, only symbols: the Menorah, the Tablets of the Law, the Lulav. The many writings in Hebrew are almost all verses of Scripture which exalt the sacredness of the place. On the Tiber river side, the Synagogue wall has different plaques of great historical interest: there are long lists of the Jews who were killed in the First World War, of the Jews who were killed at the Fosse Ardeatine, the numbers of the Shoa; they do not have words of revenge, they invoke peace for all.

Jewish Ghetto

The term "Ghetto" is used to indicate the quarter lying between Monte dei Cenci and the Theatre of Marcellus, lying entirely within the Sant'Angelo district. It was founded by Pope Paul IV Carafa in 1555, and abolished only in 1870, with the end of the Church State. It was surrounded by a wall in which there were three gates, opened in the morning and closed at dusk. In During the 17th century around 9,000 inhabitants lived there in horrible conditions. The Ghetto faces onto the Lungotevere Cenci with the monumental building of the Synagogue, built in 1904, today also the seat of the Israelite Museum of the Jewish Community of Rome. Behind the Synagogue runs the Via del Portico d'Ottavia, which owes its name to the ruins of the ancient portico built at the end of the 1st century B.C. by the Emperor Augustus for his sister. Inside part of the monument stands the church of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria, so-called in reference to the important fish market held here from the Middle Ages up to the end of the 19th century. The stone tablet used in the market to remind customers of the obligation to give the Municipal Magistrates the heads of any fish whose length was longer than that of the tablet itself is still there. The church of Sant'Angelo was one of the four churches where Jews had to go every Saturday with the obligation of listening to the sermons aiming to convert them. It was possible to avoid doing so by paying a fine, but more often the Jews preferred to fill their ears with wax!

Jewish Catacombs

Jews settled in Rome as early as the 1st century BC, and six Jewish catacombs, similar to the Christian ones, were discovered in the following places:

• In Via Portuense (Monteverde Nuovo), discovered in 1602, at present part of it is under modern buildings.
• In Via Appia Antica (Vigna Randanini), discovered in 1859, which is among the largest.
• In Vicolo San Sebastiano, discovered in 1866, but is now lost.
• In Via Casilina (Vigna Apolloni), discovered in 1882, which is now almost completely lost.
• In Via Appia Pignatelli, discovered in 1885, which is also lost.
• In Via Nomentana, (park of Villa Torlonia), discovered in 1919, nine kilometers of tunnels.

A recent study and radiocarbon dating of the Jewish catacomb at Villa Torlonia, finds that it was begun in the second century AD, and perhaps even earlier, making it the oldest known of the Roman catacombs, a century before the oldest known Christian versions. However, a similar sort of radiocarbon dating is necessary in Christian catacombs to confirm their uncertain ages.



Visit Hidden Rome

crossing the bridge
Discover Trastevere

Crossing the narrow streets leading to the ancient Jewish Ghetto we will appreciate the charm of a town quite foreign to the bustle of a capital city.

Take this small group tour ans discover the other side of the river.

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Rome Synagogue

Jewish Rome Tours

West Bank, Rome: The presence of the Jewish people in Rome goes back to the last times of the republican period (2nd century B.C.). They resided in the areas of Trastevere given to the Jews by Augustus, and was the space included between the Tiber, San Michele and Viale and the Aventine hill, where foreigners and merchants preferred to live, and the Jews have a penchant for this activity, also for reasons resulting from the circumstances of their history. From this point it is easy to see how small the space of the Ghetto is. The experimental wall, built at the expense of the Jewish community and torn down in 1848, rose in the middle of the current Via di Po di Ottavia to Piazza delle Cinque Scole to the Tiber River.


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jeish vatican

Jewish Vatican Tour

Private Tour

See the Vatican from a Jewish Perspective

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From 250€


Departure :
Duration : 2:30 hrs

In addition to the classic visit to the Picture Gallery, the Sculptures, the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Tapestries, the Maps, the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel and The Saint Peter Basilica (with the marvelous Pietà), we have special access to the Lapidario Ebraico, the archive of the first Roman Jews! You'll get to see sarcophagi and epitaphs of the early centuries.

We add a special focus on Jewish aspects.


Porta Portense

Private Tour

Snow fell by night and covered part of the Esquiline hill, and on that same night, the Mother of God told John and his wife separately in dreams that they should build a church on that place.

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We will 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, the remnants of the communities they built, and the rich heritage of a neighbourhood that has been a center of faith and worship since the Middle Ages.

We will stroll the streets of the quarter once designated as the only location Jews could live or work, a neighbourhood once boxed in by walls and plagued by the ever-flooding waters of the Tiber river. In this triangular enclave in the heart of the historic center, we will see one of Rome's most beautiful fountain's, the ruins of one of the oldest theatres from ancient Rome, and the center of worship for Rome's Jewish community since the early 1900s.

We will walk the narrow streets that wind their way toward the river, where we will explore Isola Tiberina before crossing to the other side and reaching Trastevere. The original home of Roman Jews from ancient times, here we will see the ruins of one of the oldest synagogues in Europe.

We will explore the narrow cobblestone streets, a maze marked with kosher bakeries and restaurants - where we will find Piazza Mattei, home to one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome. The Fountain of the Turtles is a 16th Century creation of Giacomo della Porta - one of the great fountain sculptures of the Renaissance period- and later adorned with turtles by the famous Bernini. 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 , the gathering place for Jews being deported under Nazi occupation. A plaque commemorates this piazza as the location where some 8,000 Italian Jews were taken to become victims of the Holocaust.

Along the way we will stop to enjoy some of the tempting delights at the Kosher bakeries and pizzerias in this historically rich section of Rome.

Sitting on Lungotevere and overlooking the river is the Synagogue of Rome , a unique and beautiful structure completed in 1905. In contrasts to the Baroque style in which much of Rome was crafted, the synagogue uses Persian and Babylonian architectural design and strikingly ethnic artistic adornments.

Inside is a museum chronicling the presence of Jews in the Eternal City, from the time before Christ through the persecution under Hitler.

Courtesy - Rosario Gorgone


Jewish Rome Reservation Form

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