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Self-Guided Tour of the Jewish Ghetto in Rome

The Eternal city is more than just The Pantheon and the Colosseum. There’s also a historical community of Jews living right in downtown Rome!! Here’s a self-guided tour of the Jewish Ghetto in Rome where you’ll learn the history of this fascinating area and also see the best places to eat!

This is a collaborative post with Exclusiveissimo Tours. All photos and content has been provided by Exclusiveissimo!

Self-Guided Tour of The Jewish Ghetto in Rome

History Of the Jewish Ghetto

The Jews have been living in Rome since the 2nd century B.C. They have practically seen the start and downfall of the Roman Empire. But things have never been easy for the Jews. In the XVI century, Pope Paul IV established the Jewish Ghetto and started considering Jews as second class citizens. The Jews always had to wear yellow in order to be recognized and they could never have normal jobs like the Catholic Romans. Even when leaving the Ghetto, they would have several restrictions and to top it all, they were even persecuted in order to be converted into Catholicism!!

The word Ghetto in Italian is not considered disrespectful, it simply means “area”.

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Synagogue of Rome
The Great Synagogue of Rome

So the Jewish Ghetto was strictly controlled by the Pope till 1870, until Rome became the capital of Italy. However, the tragedy for the Jews didn’t end there. Due to the laws made by Mussolini, hundreds of Jews suffered and died between 1943-45.

The Jewish Ghetto has more than 200 mini memorials or ‘stumbling stones‘ (Pietri d’inciampo Italian, Stolperstein in German) that commemorate the victims of the lives lost during the holocaust. Even today it’s possible to read the names, dates of birth and places of death of all these people who died in Auschwitz. These stones are nothing but a horrific truth and reminder of one of the ways in which the Jews were treated.

Stumbling Stones (Credits: Flickr)

Self-Guided Tour in The Jewish Ghetto

The Jewish Ghetto in Rome is in Central Rome and is quite tiny and compact. Being only a few minutes from Campo de’ Fiori, The Ghetto is easy to access. The walk towards Via della Reginella or via di Sant’Ambrogio is where the streets are covered with cobblestones. Although the Ghetto has been renovated after 1870, one can still get an idea of how it used to be in the earlier times.

Via della Reginella
Via della Reginella

Taking a self guided tour of the Jewish Ghetto is one of the best things to do in this area. Not only will you get a sense of place but also more time to explore Via della Reginella. Here one can still see Jewish symbols on the walls, for example the menorah. Some of the symbols are really very unique!

Jewish symbols

5 Things to See in Jewish Ghetto

1. Tempio Maggiore di Roma

An intriguing place to see on a self guided tour in Jewish Ghetto is the main Synagogue of Rome (Tempio Maggiore di Roma). It is one of the biggest synagogues in Europe, right by the Tiber river. It also happens to be the only building with a square dome in Rome!! The unique shape was given for it to be distinguished from the other round church domes in the Eternal City.

Theatre of Marcellus & the Great Synagogue

2. Jewish Museum of Rome

The Synagogue also houses the Jewish Museum of Rome that tells the story of the Jewish Roman community. Check more here.

3. Portico d’Ottavia

The Jewish Ghetto is very popular because of the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire. The Gate of Octavia (Portico d’Ottavia) is most famous and was built by emperor Augustus. He named and honored this hate in honor of his sister. It is possible to take the passageway from Octavia to to get closer to the Teatro Marcello.

Portico di Octavia

4. Teatro di Marcello

Built in 13 BC, Teatro di Marcello is an open air theatre close to the Tiber river. Theatre Marcellus was named after Augustus’ nephew “Marcus Claudius Marcellus”.

Teatrro di Marcello

5. Tempietto del Carmelo

Located in Piazza Costaguti in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, Tempietto del Carmelo is a tiny chapel from the 18th century. The half oval dome is a major point of interest and one that should not be missed!

Tempietto del Carmelo (Credits: Flickr)

Teatro di Marcello is the only theatre still standing in Rome since the 1st Century BC!!

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Where to Eat in the Jewish Ghetto

Of course nothing can speak more about the Jewish Ghetto than it’s food! In the heart of the Jewish Ghetto lies Via del Portico d’Ottavia. Here there are private Jewish schools and bars and restaurants serving Jewish/Roman cuisine.

If you’re looking for a place to eat in the Jewish Ghetto, definitely visit Ba’Ghetto to try their Kosher cuisine. Their Carciofi alla giudìa (Jewish artichoke) is simply mind blowing! This crisp deep fried artichoke is a must eat if you’re in the Jewish Ghetto because it shows how the Roman cuisine has been influenced by the Jews!

Another place to visit in the Jewish Ghetto is the historical bakery Boccione owned by a Jewish family. This bakery is so famous that every morning there are long lines. People love it for the biscotti, torte and especially for it’s mouthwatering crostata ricotta e visciole (sweet tart with ricotta cheese, sugar and cherry jam).

The line outside Boccione
Crostata ricotta e visciole

All in all, we highly recommend to see the Jewish Ghetto in Rome! Hope you enjoyed this self guided tour of the Ghetto and you visit it with us next time!

Exclusiveissimo Tours is owned by Elena and Assunta, Romans offering tours in the Eternal City. Exclusiveissimo offers historic tours, cooking classes as well as mosaic and shopping experiences. Next time you’re in Rome, book a tour with Exclusiveissimo to enjoy Rome like the locals!! Contact them- info@exclusiveissimo.com

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The Jewish community is the oldest and most special communtiy of Europe!

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Have you been to the Jewish Ghetto in Rome??

Further Reading:

Bar Farnese- Coffee in Campo de’ Fiori

Roscioli Pasticerria Near Jewish Ghetto

Where to Stay in Jewish Ghetto:

One shouldn’t miss seeing the Fontana delle Tartarughe near the Ghetto in Rome!

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If you’re not a self- guided tour person, why not check tours below:

12 Comments

  • Andreas Moser
    August 30, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    And when in Venice, you can walk though the oldest Jewish ghetto of all:
    https://andreasmoser.blog/2015/09/21/ghetto/

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      September 14, 2020 at 11:58 am

      Thank you Andreas!! I am checking your blog now 🙂

      Reply
  • Image Earth Travel
    August 4, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Really enjoyed this detailed Rome tour with you!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      August 4, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      Grazie Nilla. Hope we can meet one day in the streets of the Ghetto.

      Reply
  • sharleen
    August 2, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    I went to Rome last year, on my last day I met a lovely American Jewish man and his Mexican wife. They told me they stumbled upon the Jewish areas. They were not aware of it and neither was I – I could not see any adverts or discussion in tourism places about this. I want to go back to Rome now and see this amazing area and learn more about Jewish history in Italy. So fascinating.

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      August 4, 2020 at 11:08 am

      Hi Sharleen! Thank you for your comment. What a great story. I too think its underrated part of the city. Most people stumble upon it because of it being close to Campo de’ Fiori.

      Reply
  • Cookingwithloveandspices
    August 2, 2020 at 8:10 am

    I miss Italy. Would love to visit the places you mentioned once we can travel again.

    That artichoke is calling my name. I love artichokes 😋

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      August 4, 2020 at 11:07 am

      Haha, me too. I really hope we can go. I understand your feelings so well!

      Reply
  • KareninCalabria
    August 2, 2020 at 2:27 am

    I can attest to the delicious artichokes, but haven’t ever tried that tempting crostata – another culinary specialty to sample for when we are able to return!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      August 4, 2020 at 11:03 am

      I hope you can visit, it’s quite an experience going inside the store. You might want to check Alex Polizzi’s Secret Italy to see the experience online!

      Reply
  • Katy
    August 1, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Amazing details! This history is fascinating and so so relevant!

    Reply
    • Italophilia
      August 1, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      Thank you Katy. It’s a part of Rome that shouldn’t be missed!!

      Reply

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