The Ghetto is the center point of Rome’s Jewish community. In 1555, Pope Paul IV forced Rome’s Jews to live inside the walls of the ghetto, with two doors, which were closed at sunset and reopened in the morning.
In 1555, Pope Paul IV forced Rome’s Jews to live inside the walls of the ghetto, with two doors, which were closed at sunset and reopened in the morning. The ghetto was abolished in the late 19th century and Jews were able to live in peace in this area of Rome until the Nazi period when they were persecuted and deported to concentration camps.
Today, it has again become the center point of Rome’s Jewish community, never forgetting the past. Stop in Via della Reginella near house number 2 and you’ll see some brass pavement stones that are engraved with the names of several victims in remembrance of the Holocaust.
The ghetto’s main gate was the Portico d’Ottavia, built in the Roman era and restored by Augustus to dedicate it to his sister Octavia. The Church of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria was erected in the middle ages, and its name (pescheria means fish market) alluded to the portico having been a fish market in the Middle Ages.
Strolling through the ghetto, you can admire its small squares and fountains, such as the Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain.) They say that Duke Mattei wanted to show off his power to the father of the woman he loved and so he had a fountain built in a single night in front of her window! Bernini added the turtles later (1658).
Walking towards the Tiber, take a look at the Synagogue, which holds the Jewish Museum, where guided tours of the neighborhood are organized. Built in the late 19th/early 20th century, it was meant to be visible from any vantage point in Rome, with touches of Liberty style and Babylonian art.
Tiber Island – which they say is the world's smallest inhabited island! – is a real little gem and you should definitely visit it.
Legend has it that Asclepius, the god of medicine, who came to Rome from Ancient Greece to eradicate the plague (293 b.C.), planted his stick here after jumping off the ship. On the eastern shore, you can see a figure of Asclepius with a serpent coiled around a stick, the classic symbol of medicine! Even the shape of the island, like the outline of a ship, brings this legend to mind.
The Fatebenefratelli Hospital, on the island, was once a quarantine during the plague of 1656.
Don’t miss the chance to try some excellent kosher cuisine, starting with the famous carciofi alla giudia, deep-fried artichokes. The ghetto has many excellent restaurants, including La Taverna del ghetto, Nonna Betta, Bella Carne, Ba’Ghetto, and Sora Margherita. Or if you want a quick rest and bite, try Antico Forno Boccione, Pizza di Beridde, or Antico Forno Urbani.