The Jewish Ghetto & Trastevere

The city’s Jewish history is written in the cobbled streets of these neighbourhoods in the very heart of the city. Ancient ruins, Renaissance palaces and apartment buildings jostle with medieval churches.

The Jewish community in Rome is the oldest in Europe. The first Jewish settlers arrived directly from Judea, ambassadors sent by the Maccabees in the 2nd century B.C. to forge an alliance with the Roman Republic in defence against the Syrian king, Antiochus. This military alliance swiftly became a trading alliance and the Jewish community grew on the west bank of the Tiber, in Trastevere. In the late Middle Ages the Jewish population gravitated across the river where, in 1555, deep in the throes of the Counter-Reformation, the Pope decreed that Jews be segregated from the rest of the city and the walls of the ‘Ghetto’ were built.

For over three centuries Roman Jews were segregated from the rest of the city, in an area closed by gates at night. When the walls of the Ghetto were torn down in the late nineteenth century, much of the area was rebuilt, most notably the new Synagogue, the Tempio Maggiore. However we can still find traces of the Ghetto’s history in inscriptions and alleyways.

Opposite the Synagogue, and pre-dating the Ghetto by fifteen centuries we can see remains of the Rome of Augustus, grand Imperial structures which survive having been incorporated into medieval and then Renaissance structures. Not only for those with a specific interest in Jewish history, this area also offers a splendid example of the “palimpsest” which makes Rome so deeply intriguing.

Crossing over the Tiber Island we enter the pretty quarter of Trastevere, a sleepy village in the heart of the city on a midweek morning, where we will visit the medieval churches of Santa Cecilia and Santa Maria in Trastevere, and their gleaming mosaics.

The cost of the tour does not include your entrance fees to the Synagogue and Museum, currently 5 euro per person.

This tour can include a visit to the Synagogue if you wish, however bear in mind that for security reasons we are obliged to follow one of the internal tours which lasts about 30 minutes.

Any alterations to the suggested itinerary are very welcome, and will be accommodated wherever accessibility permits.

  • Explore the Jewish Synagogue and Museum.
  • Visit to Trastevere, including the churches of Santa Cecilia and Santa Maria in Trastevere

3 hours