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.
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.
Today the Roman Ghetto contains the Great Synagogue, many Jewish shops and institutions, and a host of popular Kosher restaurants and bakeries.
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.
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.
Tourists and locals come to the Ghetto area for its food which is centered in the Portico D’Ottavio
Our tour ended outside the Great Synagogue of Rome. The synagogue was built between 1901—1904 and sits on the banks of the Tiber.
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.
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.