The History, Rich Architecture and Culture Make Rome’s Jewish Ghetto A Must Visit
While visiting the ancient Roman Jewish Ghetto might not initially at the top of a first-time traveler’s list of places-to-go while in Italy, it is a must-visit historical spot for anyone on a trip to Rome or who will be there for more than a few days. Here’s our guide to visiting the Jewish Ghetto in Rome.
Visiting The Roman Ghetto Today
The word “ghetto” has a lot of negative connotations to it, and some Americans scoff at calling the Roman Ghetto a “Jewish Ghetto,” but that’s simply a misunderstanding. The “Jewish Ghetto” nickname isn’t considered at all inappropriate by Italian-Jews, in a literal sense, that’s just what the place is. The area that today comprises the Roman/Jewish Ghetto was walled off during the 1500s as a part of racist policies that were in place during that time.
October 16, 1943: Nazis conduct a rastrellamento in Rome's Jewish ghetto in Trastevere. Over 1,000 Jews were taken to Auschwitz from Tiburtina station: 363 men, 689 women and 207 children. Only 16 survived. #OTD we remember the 75th anniversary of this horrendous event. pic.twitter.com/1ExIYpXxMZ
— Dr. Sarah Bond (@SarahEBond) October 16, 2018
Today, however, the area is a vibrant and historic part of Rome. An important thing to remember is that the best way to visit the Jewish Ghetto is on foot. You can explore by yourself, with friends and family, or as part of a walking tour. When visiting Rome many people make the mistake of walking right past the Jewish Ghetto, not even realizing how much rich history they have just passed, that’s why it’s always worth doing a bit of research before your next vacation!
There aren’t nearly as many Jews in the Roman Ghetto as there were in the past, only several hundred still live there today. But the number of Jewish people living in Rome has recovered since the atrocities of WWII.
When Should I Visit The Jewish Ghetto?
Most people visit the Jewish Ghetto on the same day they go to the Trastevere, which is just over the river. You can, however, also go there on the same day as you tour the Roman Forum for it’s only a short walk from there and you can certainly see both on the same day without being too rushed. If you don’t want to walk from the Forum, you can also take a bus, but avoid trying to driving a rental car; they are far more trouble then they are worth.
Because the Jewish Ghetto isn’t very large (you can walk it in about fifteen minutes) so you don’t need to do lots of planning for this trip, give yourself about two hours to see everything, and you should be good. There is one important thing to keep in mind though that many people forget: Most of the restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto will be closed from Friday evening until Monday…So if you’re planning on spending the evening there, you might want to double check and see if the restaurant you’re planning on visiting is going to be open!
Where Should I Go In The Jewish Ghetto?
There are lots of places to visit in the Jewish Ghetto, here are some of our favorites:
The Marcellus Theater
One of the first stops you should make when visiting the Jewish Ghetto is to the Marcellus Theater. The theater is huge, beautiful and very much resembles the Colosseum – in fact, many first-time visitors mistake the two. If you visit Rome in the Summer, the Theater hosts some wonderful open-air concerts.
The Great Synagogue
If you are interested in learning more about the plight of the Jewish people in Rome, which is almost as ancient as the city itself, then you must visit the Great Synagogue. The Great Synagogue is still open and is a great place to visit for Jews and non-Jews alike. Inside The Great Synagogue is the Jewish Museum of Rome which one of the most informative and exciting museums in Rome, and that’s saying something!
The Piazza Mattei
The Piazza Mattei is one of the most underrated sites in all of Rome. The Piazza has one of the city’s most beautiful fountains which Americans refer to as the “turtle fountain” and many other things to see as well as great places to eat and relax.
The history, rich architecture and culture make Rome’s Jewish Ghetto one of the best places to visit, and while it’s a bit off-the-beaten-path, if you’re interested in learning about life was really like in the 15th, and 16th centuries you don’t want to miss it! Whether you are Jew or Gentile, the Jewish Ghetto in Rome is a great, unique, place to visit.