Jewish Ghetto in Rome Tour Review - Learn The Past And Present Of This Area

The When In Rome Tour of the Jewish Ghetto gave us new insights into the history and diversity of a unique part of Rome during our visit in October of 2013.

The Argentina Square is a major excavation site

Our tour began with the Largo di Torre Argentina Square with a discussion of the Ghetto. The Argentina Square includes the remains of four ancient Roman temples dating back to the 4th century BC as well as part of Pompey’s Theater where it is believed that Julius Caesar was assassinated.  We saw many of the numerous homeless cats which are allowed to live in the square.  In a sense, this square is a microcosm of Modern Rome. Visitors are looking at 2500 year old structures while cars and trolleys go speeding by.

We were told that Jews had lived in Rome since the second century BC when the Maccabees from Judea formed an alliance with Rome.  We learned that the Ghetto on the banks of the Tiber River was created in 1555 by Pope Paul IV and all Jews were forced to live within its walls.  

It was formally abolished in 1882 after the Papal States were incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy.  The Ghetto walls were torn down in 1888 and the construction of the Great Synagogue of Rome began in 1901.

Jewish shops abound in this area

Today the Roman Ghetto contains the Great Synagogue, many Jewish shops and institutions, and a host of popular Kosher restaurants and bakeries.

We were told that Piazzi Cenci is named for the family which was headed by the cruel and abusive Francesco Cenci, a man so wicked that eventually his children killed him

We entered the Jewish or Roman Ghetto and were told that many of the buildings dated back to the 10th century.  Families such as the Cenci and Santacroce families lived in this wild and often brutal period. Slit holes for shooting arrows could be seen in the walls of several of the structures.

The Fontana delle Tartarughe or Turtle Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in Rome

 This fountain was commissioned between 1580 and 1585 by Muzio Mattei a politically well wired Roman Catholic living in the Roman Ghetto.  Mattei, who owned six homes, was instrumental in bringing fresh water to the Ghetto.

The original sculptured turtles on the fountain were replaced after some disappeared in 1979.  Security around the fountain is intense with 24 hour TV monitors.

The popular Ba” Ghetto Restaurant combines Roman Jewish Kosher and Middle Eastern Cuisine

Tourists and locals come to the Ghetto area for its food which is centered in the Portico D’Ottavio  

We couldn't leave the area without sampling some of the delicious pastries


One moment we passed a pastry shop, the next moment we saw a small marker which reminded us of the Nazi deportation of many of the Jewish people of Rome who soon perished in Auschwitz during World War II

Our tour ended outside the Great Synagogue of Rome. The synagogue was built between 1901—1904 and sits on the banks of the Tiber. 

The Great Synagogue of Rome

 It was designed to standout and its aluminum dome is the only squared dome in Rome.  Our When in Rome Tour did not include a visit to the Synagogue which contains the Jewish Museum of Rome.  There is ample time after the formal tour to visit the Great Synagogue and the Museum.

In the Jewish Ghetto, as it is all over Rome, there are many excavations of antiquities


The When In Rome Tour of The Jewish Ghetto in Rome was factual and gave us an overview of the history and diversity of this section of Rome.  Anyone who wants more in depth history of the Jews in Italy should visit The Jewish Museum of Rome and The Great Synagogue.

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