A Tour of Rome’s Jewish Quarter

Marble tiles in the Jewish Quarter of Rome


“It’s impossible to do this tour or any other tour chronologically.”

This was one of the first things Lauren, a guide for the walking tour company Context Travel, told us as we stood in Largo Arenula, our starting point for a historic walk of Rome’s Jewish Quarter and Trastevere. In addition to Lauren, a British scholar who has studied the art, history, and culture of Rome for the better part of two decades, my group consisted of a quiet, young couple and a young, single woman. Context had invited me to be a guest on one of their tours and I chose to take this one as it was an area I knew the least about. I liked the idea of going on the tour as more or less a blank slate. I wanted to learn something.

At this point, I should back up and say that I have studied Rome, its landmarks, art, history, and neighborhoods for more than 15 years. Before that, I worked at an institute for German Studies and interned at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Even with this specialized knowledge, I’ve always found it difficult to find information about Rome’s Jewish heritage. Most guidebooks give it short shrift, which isn’t surprising; there are too many layers here to cover any one topic in detail. But I would venture to say that the story of the Jewish people in Rome is one of the few threads that weaves together the story of this city in a way that is both historically comprehensive and personal.

Following are just a few of the sites I learned about on the three-hour tour. Continue reading A Tour of Rome’s Jewish Quarter

Italian Program for European Day of Jewish Culture Announced

I’m always fascinated to learn about Jewish heritage in Italy. So, here’s a Jewish cultural event that will be going on this fall.

September 7 marks the European Day of Jewish Culture, and, according to Ruth Ellen Gruber’s blog Jewish Heritage Travel, “Italy is consistently probably the most enthusiastic country that takes part.” This year’s theme for Jewish Culture Day will be “Music,” and Italy is expected to host events in some 58 towns and cities, including Milan and Mantova.

To see a schedule of events and information about the programs, visit the Giornata Europea della Cultura Ebraica website. Note that the information is in Italian, but the times and locations are pretty easy to understand.

Jewish Resources in Italy

Just in time for Passover, I’ve found a great resource for all things Jewish in Italy. JewishItaly.org has links and info to synagogues, kosher stores, Jewish museums, and more. If you are Jewish or just interested in Jewish culture and history, you can also browse JewishItaly’s list of towns that can claim Jewish heritage or presently have a Jewish community. Also interesting are JewishItaly’s news tidbits, including a recent listing from March 1, 2008, noting that five restaurants in Rome have lost their kosher certification. As this is a part of Italian history that few travelers are aware of, this site is worth checking out.

In Primo Levi’s Footsteps

Though International Holocaust Remembrance Day just passed (on Jan. 27), there’s still a chance to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and Fascists (and other rogue regimes).

The Italian Cultural Institute in Washington, DC, will hold a screening of the documentary La Strada di Levi on Tuesday, January 29 at 6 p.m. Here’s the press release write-up:

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day which was officially established in 2005 by the United Nations as an annual world day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and has been held in Italy since the year 2000. On January 27, 1945, the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Poland, was liberated by the advancing Red Army of the Soviet Union. Among the prisoners was Italian writer Primo Levi, whose journey back to his hometown Turin, is depicted by Davide Ferrario’s documentary, combining a careful historical investigation with a cutting insight into today’s Europe.

For more information about the event, contact [email protected].

Getting Real In Rome’s Ghetto

An interesting article from the New York Times today profiling the rising real estate rates in Rome’s Ghetto. The area, bordered by the Tiber, Campo de’ Fiori, and the Campidoglio, has long been one of our favorite spots in the city – for its food, few boutiques, and relative calm. Seems like we’re not the only ones who like it here:

Renewal, in Real Estate and in Culture, for Ancient People

While we’re on the subject of Rome’s Jewish Quarter, we must mention that January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Many forget that many of Italy’s Jews perished during World War II, and not just in camps in Germany and Poland. In fact, there are a few sites in and around Rome that mark this tragic time in history, including the Fosse Ardeatine and the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome at Via Tasso 145.

See also:
The Virtual Jewish History Tour: Rome
Jewish Italy
Wikipedia: Roman Ghetto