Rome's Jewish ghetto ☆☆☆

Via del Portico d'Ottavia, the "main street" of Rome's medieval Jewish neighborhood, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Rome, Italy (Photo by Palickap)
Via del Portico d'Ottavia, the 'main street' of Rome's medieval Jewish neighborhood

The medieval Jewish neighborhood of Rome

With all the focus on Rome's role as the capital of Christendom, many folks forget that Rome is also home to one of the oldest Jewish populations in the world outside of Israel or Egypt.

The Jewish Ghetto of Rome

The kernal of the Jewish community in Rome dates back to the age of the Roman Empire, when Jews emigrated to Rome to settle. To this day, Rome has a thriving Jewish population, with the focus still centered on the medieval Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, a tangle of quiet streets directly north of Tiber Island, east of Campo de' Fiori, west of the Forum, and across the Tiber River from Trastevere. (Bounded by the Tevere to the south, Via Florida to the north, Via Arenula to the west, and Via del Teatro di Marcello to the east.)

The neighborhood retains Rome's main synagogue (an early 20th century Art Nouveau building on Lungotevere Cenci, with services daily; no cameras or cellphones with cameras allowed) with a small museum, and a Jewish cultural center, along with some excellent restaurants (Da GiggettoSora Margherita) specializing in Roman Jewish dishes (like carficofi alla giudia) plus several bakeries (bagels, anyone?).

(For the record, "ghetto" derives from Venetian dialectVenice was the first city to make the chilling decision to force all Jews to live in one part of town, creating the world's first ghetto. At any rate, Italy's Jewish neighborhoods are still referred to as "ghetto," a word that—despite the dispicable heritage of segegration, which started in Rome in 1555 under Pope Paolo IV and lasted until Italian Unification in 1870—doesn't carry quite the same negative connotation as it does in American English.)

The ancient Portico d'Ottavia

This standing brick wall wtih pediment surrounded by broken columns was built as a portico to enclose two temples (Jupiter Stator and Juno Regina) in 27 BC by Augustus Caesar, who named it Porticus Octaviae after his sister, Octavia Minor.

Fires and earthquakes took their toll on teh temples over the years, and into their ruins was built the 8C church of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria—so named for the fish market that occupied the portico and its area until the end of the 19C.

Exploring Jewish Rome

If you are osbervant, I have separate pages on kosher dining in Rome and kosher lodgings in Rome.

For the observant and mildly curious alike interested in getting a better sense of Rome's venerable Jewish history, try one of these tours:

Photo gallery
  • Via del Portico d
  • The Jewish synagogue of Rome, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Italy (Photo by Scazon)
  • Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain) in Piazza Mattei, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Italy (Photo by Pmk58)
  • The Portico d
  • A back street in Rome
  • The Fontana del Pianto on Piazza delle Cinque Scole, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Italy (Photo by Lalupa)
  • Exhibits in Il Museo Ebraico di Roma (The Jewish museum in Rome) in the synagogue, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Italy (Photo by Daniel Ventura)
  • La Sinagoga di Roma, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Italy (Photo by Geobia)
  • Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain) in Piazza Mattei, Rome's Jewish ghetto, Italy (Photo by Galzu)
  • The Portico d
  • The Portico d
  • The Portico d
  • The Portico d
  • Via del Portico d
Rome tours
More tours
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).


More on Jewish Rome

 (Photo by MM)
Roseto Comunale
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

A hidden Aventine rose garden overlooking the Circus Maximus


Where to stay Kosher (Kashèr) in Rome, Italy

Angelotti (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
Sora Margherita
Rome: Tiber Bend

Home cooking in Rome's Jewish Ghetto


Where to eat and shop Kosher (Kashèr) in Rome, Italy

 (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
Da Giggetto
Rome: Lower Tiber Bend

Great artichokes and other Roman Jewish delicacies surrounded by ancient ruins in Rome's Jewish Ghetto

Jewish delicacies (and kosher ones) at a bakery in Venice (Photo by SpirosK photography)

A travel guide to Jewish Italy, from kosher restaurants and hotels in Rome, Florence, and Venice to historic synagogues and other jewish sights in Italy, as well as Jewish tours, schuls, mikvahs, and more