Roman Ghetto: history, how to get there and where to eatGetting around and what to do to visit the world's oldest Jewish ghetto: from the Synagogue to the Jewish museum, from the Portico d’Ottavia to the restaurants to eat
The Jewish ghetto of Rome is one of the most beautiful hidden treasures of the city. Visiting this small neighborhood, delimited by the Tiber one one side and by Venice Square on the other, is not only a cultural and religious experience, due to the Synagoghe and the Jewish museum, but also culinary, thanks to the many typical restaurants scattered throughout the ghetto.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY AND THE ROUNDUP OF 16 OCTOBER 1943
The Jewish ghetto of Rome is considered the most ancient of the western world. It was Pope Paul IV who ordered its construction in 1555 by revoking all rights granted to the Roman Jews and equipping it, originally, with only two accesses to enter and exit. Life was very hard for the Jews and it was subjected to a series of obligations and prohibitions: obligation to dwell within the ghetto and always carry a distinctive sign of belonging to the Jewish community, prohibition of exercising any type of trade with the exception of rags and clothes and to own real estate.
The Jews made a virtue out of necessity becoming, also thanks to these prohibitions, schrewd traders of clothing and skillful businessmen in the field of loans.
At the dawn of the October 16, 1943 the Nazis surrounded the neighborhood and caught over 1,000 Jews by picking them by force from their homes. Two days after the prisoners were loaded on wagons of a train to Auschwitz: of 1,023 deportees only 16 survived the extermination.
With the passing of the years the ghetto has increasingly widened its territorial boundaries up the "liberation" in 1849 when, following the proclamation of the Italian Republic, segregation was abolished. In 1870 the Jews were assimilated to Italian citizens and over the course of the years, the ancient, narrow streets and old buildings were demolished to make way for new constructions and the creation of three new streets: via del Portico d'Ottavia, via Catalana and via del Tempio.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE ROMAN GHETTO
The Synagogue is one of the most popular tourist places (see the box at the bottom for all information and visiting hours) of the Jewish ghetto of Rome. The Great Synagogue is a large two storey building with a square base surmounted by a large dome. The Synagogue of the Jewish ghetto of Rome is also, and above all, a place of prayer and a vital cultural reference point for the entire Jewish community.
In the basement there is the Jewish museum and the Spanish Temple, a small synagogue which is worth a visit.
The Synagogue was designed and finished to build in 1904 by the architects Osvaldo Armanni and Vincenzo Costa, inspired by Assyrian and Babylonian motifs. As planned, the Temple is visible from every vantage point of the city. This makes the Synagogue one of the icons of the Jewish ghetto of Rome.
The Portico d'Ottavia dates back to the 2nd century BC and it is one of the monuments of most interest. In the middle ages a large fish market and a church were built on the ruins of the porch. We recommend a walk among these ruins.
From the Portico d'Ottavia you can directly access Teatro Marcello, the "small Colosseum" from which it differs to their small size and the type of semicircular structure (the Colosseum is more round as the classical amphitheatres).
The fountain of the turtles is a small pearl present in the ghetto. Built toward the end of the 16th century as a result of a challenge. The duke Mattei commanded to erect in a single day this beautiful fountain, making it build in front of the windows of the father of his beloved to demonstrate to be an important man. The turtles were erected in 1658 by Bernini.
Finally, don't miss a walk around the near Tiberine island, the smallest inhabited island in the world.
WHERE TO EAT: THE GHETTO AND KOSHER FOOD
Kosher "philosophy" is the basis of Jewish cuisine. Kosher is a set of rules, of religious nature and origins, on which is based the nutrition of Jews. In fact, Kosher means "allowed", "in accordance with law".
But what to order in a restaurant in the ghetto? Certainly, fish broth, one of the delicacies in absolute terms, but also artichokes cooked Jewish style (only in March), salt cod fillets and stuffed fish.
Wandering about the streets of the ghetto, especially in Via del Portico d’Ottavia, you will notice there are many restaurants. So, where to stop to eat in the ghetto of Rome? It's hard to draw up a list since all resturants present an excellent cuisine. Among the most famous, we mention Taverna del ghetto, Nonna Betta, Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia and Sora Margherita. We recommmend as well a visit to the excellent bakery Boccione.
The Roman ghetto is a hidden pearl between the Tiber river and Venice Square. Often, tourists overlook this neighborhood because they are in a rush or they don't pay enough attention. Our tip is to spend 15 minutes, even if only for a walk, to discover some hidden treasures unique in the world.
For further information on visiting hours and ticket prices we invite you to read the box at the bottom of this article.
The Jewish ghetto of Rome: history, how to get there and where to eat
Admission to the Synagogue is only allowed with a guided tour through the Jewish Museum.
- HOW TO GET THERE
From Roma Termini Station go to bus stop and get line 70.
Get off at Largo Torre Argentina and walk for about 10 minutes.
The Jewish Museum opens every day from Sunday to Friday in the following visiting hours:
WINTER OPENING HOURS (from October 1st to March 31)
Sunday – Thursday: from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission at 4.15 p.m.).
Friday: from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (last admission at 1.15 p.m.)
SUMMER OPENING HOURS (from April 1st to September 30)
Sunday – Thursday: from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last admission at 5.15 p.m.)
Friday: from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last admission at 3.15 p.m.)
The Museum closes on Saturdays and on Jewish holidays.
Guided visits for the Synagogue are scheduled every hour in English and Italian.
Tickets for the Jewish Museum include a guided visit into the Tempio Maggiore and the Spanish Temple:
full ticket €11
groups €8 per person (minimum 20 people, one escort for free)
disabled, children under 10 (except groups): free admission