A Walking Tour Through Rome

Today was the first day of our Walking Tours!! Jackie Amber and I gave our group a tour of the Rome Jewish Ghetto. This Jewish ghetto was establish in 1555 making it the oldest in Europe. It was created by Pope Paul the IV when he granted the Jews land in a Papal Bull, an official document from the Pope.

We began our tour in the ruins of Teatro Marcello. This is commonly known as the Jewish Coliseum. It was named after Marcus Marcellus, the nephew of Emperor Augustus. It was completed in 13 BC and held approximately 11,000-20,000 people. It was a place for singing, dancing, and acting back in the day, but now the upper level is apartments that house some of Rome’s oldest Jewish families.

Next, we made our way to the arch of the original entrance of the Jewish Ghetto. It was part of the Portio di Ottavia, which was built in 146 BC. In the 5th century however, the marble entrance was replaced with an arch. This arch was then used in the 16th century as the main gateway into the Ghetto. In the Papal Bull, that I mentioned earlier, the Pope gave strict laws on professions the Jews could and could not have. One of the jobs was to be a fisherman, which many Jews were. So this arch became known as the fish market later on. Today, the arch is currently being restored.

As we walked into the Jewish Ghetto it was hard not to notice the beautiful Tempio Maggiore. Which is the Great Synagogue of Rome, built in 1901 and finished in 1904. It stands on the grounds of an older synagogue that was torn down after the Italian Unification in 1870. Sadly this building was the sight of a terrorist attack on the 9th of October 1982 at 11:55 am. After the conclusion of the Sabbath services five armed Palestinian terrorists threw at least 3 hand grenades at the crowd, then proceeded to fire machine guns at the crowd. In order to protect the area today, many officers keep eye in guard stands on every corner of the Ghetto and only allow government and medical vehicles into the Ghetto.
This Great Synagogue is now gated and home to the Jewish museum which is located under the building.

Following the Synagogue, we made our way to the Piazza di Cenci, Cenci’s Palace. This was the place of the 16th century most infamous crime, the murder of Francesco Cenci. His daughter, Beatrice and wife, Lucrezia murdered Francesco after dealing with many beatings and horrible treatment.

Our next sweet spot was a world famous bakery, Boccione. This bakery has made many newspapers including The NY Times. This bakery has a limited selection of three items, but they really represent quality over quantity. It’s most popular item is the Jewish Pizza, bread filled with maraschino cherries, other fruits, nuts, and other items. It is burnt to a crisp on the outside, but warm and soft on the inside. However, you must make it there early in the day in order to try these delicious treats. We were lucky enough to get to try some!

The original Ghetto had walls built by the order of the Pope to separate the Jewish from the Christians. Which had gates that locked at night. When the people left the gates men had to wear a yellow cloth and women had to wear a yellow veil. The area chosen for the Ghetto was not the nicest. It was subject to flooding from the Tiber River. The ones who lived in here suffered from poverty, due to the lack of jobs. Eventually, after the unification the walls were torn down in 1888 and most of the Ghetto was then destroyed.

However, during WWII the Jewish Ghetto was reintroduced in 1930s by Nazi Germany. The German government said that the Roman Jews would not be taken to concentration camps if they paid a gold ransom. After many donations, including gold from the Vatican the Jewish people had enough to pay, but Nazi didn’t keep their word and invaded on October 16, 1943. They deported nearly 2,000 individuals, and of which only 16 survived.

We then walked down an ally and found some bronze plaques that are placed throughout the Ghetto to provide remembrance to the individuals who we’re taken to concentration camps by during the Nazi invasion and did not make it home.

The last sight we gave information on was an old restaurant in the Ghetto. La Taverna Del Ghetto was the first kosher restaurant in Rome. Kosher comes from the Hebrew word “Kashrus” which means suitable or pure. The laws of “Kashrus” explain the extensive rules including: how food must be prepared, non contaminated, forbidden foods, and the correct foods. For example, the only type of meat that can be consumed according to the laws of the Torah are cattle and ones that have “cloven hooves.”

As a group we ended our tour by having lunch at a local restaurant that has incredible pizza. Jackie and I have come to a conclusion it is our favorite place to have lunch here in Rome. We have eaten there 3 times and it gets better with each visit!!

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