Above: Looking up Via del Portico d’Ottavia in Rome

Jewish Rome: A Walking Tour of the Former Ghetto

It’s possible to pass from one side of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto to the other without even noticing it’s there. Much of it was demolished in the late 19th century, but, for once, the destruction wasn’t caused by anti-Semitism. The street plan of the neighborhood was redrawn in an effort to make it more livable, and few people mourned the loss of the ghetto’s narrow, airless lanes.

Because the geography of the ghetto has changed so much — and because the history of Rome’s Jewish community dates back more than 2,000 years — it helps to visit the neighborhood with a guide. Native Roman Micaela Pavoncello led us on an engrossing and personal tour through Jewish Roma Walking Tours. One other couple accompanied us, but it is also possible to book a private excursion.

We started in the Jewish Museum of Rome, which, among many other treasures, contains furnishings from the one synagogue that was permitted in the ghetto. Called the Cinque Scole, the synagogue has worship spaces for five sects of Judaism. Elsewhere in the museum, Pavoncello showed us an ancient relief depicting the menorah that the Romans removed from the Temple in Jerusalem, the base of which differs from that shown in the symbol of Israel.   

Join Andrew Harper today to continue reading our exclusive content.