Did you know Rome is home to the oldest Jewish community in the world outside of Israel? The Roman Jews are very proud of their heritage, and over the last few years more and more visitors have come to explore the Ghetto, the lively Jewish neighborhood.
In the 3rd century BCE a first Jewish community, mostly merchants and tanners, settled down in Trastevere, the area on the right bank of the river Tiber. That’s where we are going to start our walk, looking for the site of the oldest synagogue in Rome. Strolling down the maze of colorful alleyways dotted with the occasional clothesline across the street, wonderful art works, nice little shops and a seemingly unending choice of bars and eateries, we’ll reach the Tiber River, and cross the bridge to the tiny Tiberina Island.
Once on the left bank, we’ll enter the Ghetto, that is the area where the Roman Jews have lived since the Middle-ages. In the mid-1500s Pope Paul III ordered that the Jewish population be segregated in this area, and he had a wall build all around the neighborhood. Pretty much the same happened in many other European cities back then, and in Rome the segregation of the Jews was lifted completely only in the late 1800s. That’s when most of the Ghetto area got knocked down to sanitize what had become a very rundown, extremely poor part of the city, and that’s also when the magnificent new Synagogue was built. We are going to visit the Jewish Museum attached to the synagogue, and here you’ll hear about the history of the community from ancient Roman days to the present.
After that, it’s definitely time to experience what life is like in the Ghetto today, meeting some of the most colorful characters of this tight-knit community, like the baker who would rather die than divulge the secret recipe of her mouth-watering chocolate and ricotta cake, or the barista who’s in charge of the daily updates about any gossip circulating in the community!