Rome, Florence and Livorno – Jewish experience

In Italy there are several synagogues testifying to an important Jewish presence which dates back to Roman times. Untill the 18th Century emancipation period, Synagogues didn’t usually take monumental features, due to the restrictive laws that did regulate the Jewish places of worship presence into Christian Countries. Since the 16th Century, this habit has been accentuated by the ghettos’ institution. The Synagogues had to be planted inside the Ghetto and They could not have any distinguishing sign on the outside.


Travel program

Arrival at Roma airport. Transfer and accommodation in hotel. Free time at guest disposal. In the afternoon walking tour of the historical centre of the city. Dinner and overnight stay.

Breakfast. Meeting in the Hotel lobby and departure for the tour of the Jewish Ghetto and the synagogue. The ghetto was established in 1555 and was controlled by the papacy until the capture of Rome in 1870. Here the Jews were confined in a walled area often subject to floods of the nearby river with three gates that were locked at night. Not only were the Jews confined, they were also subject to professional and economic restrictions. It is a common misconception that Rome is only the city of Christianity. Jews are the most authentic Roman citizens and in Rome you will see more Jewish sites than you could ever imagine. Roman Jews have even preserved their own dialect the Giudeo-romanesco with its 16th century dialectical forms. This tour will offer you the opportunity to visit the Jewish Ghetto with its complex variety of history, architecture and tradition. It’s one of the most fascinating areas of Rome, one with the highest number of examples of Roman and Medieval architecture – out of the very few – that still stand in Rome. You will be taken on an interesting tour of this very rich cultural heritage, visiting the Ghetto, including the two main Synagogues – Ashkenaz and Sephardi; the highlights of this tour will be a private visit of the Jewish museum and the synagogues led by our Jewish guide who is also a member of the Roman Jewish Community. The Roman Ghetto is also full of restaurants offering delicious Jewish-Roman dishes, like the famous fried artichokes, the “carciofi alla giudia”. A stop in the Jewish bakery is a must and will make your trip to Rome unforgettable. Dinner and overnight stay.


Breakfast at the Hotel and departure to the tour of the Eternal City. Starting off from the Colosseum, the symbol of Rome par excellence with a history stretching back almost two thousand years. To the right of the Colosseum, there is the Arch of Constantine, Rome’s best-known triumphal arch. Moving down the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the Roman Forum will be found, the political, financial and religious hub of Rome, with the Imperial Forum just across the road. A little further on, at the end of Via dei Fori Imperiali and after Piazza Venezia, there is Piazza del Campidoglio, which has been centre of city government since the XII century. Michelangelo’s stunning piazza is flanked by the Capitoline Museums, the world’s oldest national museums. Leaving Capitol Hill to walk down Via del Corso, one of the greatest masterpieces of architecture is waiting to be admired: the Pantheon, a perfectly proportioned temple dedicated to all of Rome’s major gods. Free time for lunch and soon after, heading towards the Tevere direction, a moment must be dedicated to Piazza Navona, one of the most spectacular Baroque style squares in Rome. The square’s Baroque style is largely attributable to Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and his rival Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and Palazzo Pamphili. Continuing the tour, there are two more sites which capture everyone’s attention: The Trevi Fountain has a spectacular impact on the visitors. Piazza di Spagna is, on the other hand, located in one of the most elegant and exclusive areas in the historic centre. Visitors are consistently captivated by its remarkable staircase, which was designed by Francesco De Sanctis in the 18th Century.

Breakfast and transfer to the Villa Borghese public park. Visit to the Borghese Gallery. This exquisite art gallery is home to a fine collection of masterpieces including those of Caravaggio, Canova and Bernini. After lunch transfer to the train station and departure to Firenze. At the arrival transfer and accommodation into the hotel. Free time for a walk. Dinner and overnight stay.

Breakfast. Visit to the ghetto and the synagogue of Florence. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1882, not longer after the emancipation of the Italian Jews which was proclaimed in 1861 when the Kingdom of Italy was established. The Florence synagogue is one of Europe’s finest examples of a blend of the exotic Moorish style with Arabic and Byzantine elements that characterize the white travertine and pink limestone façade, the copper cladding on the central and lateral domes (originally they were gilded), and the massive walnut doors. The style is also reflected in the interior decorations and furnishings. The community had been debating about a new synagogue since 1847, but the lack of funds made it impossible to take any concrete steps. Then, in 1868, Cavalier David Levi bequeathed the money for the construction of a “Monumental Temple worthy of Florence”. Two years later, in 1870, three architects, Mariano Falcini, Marco Treves and Vincenco Micheli, were appointed to design the temple.

The location was finally selected after lengthy discussions between the factions that wanted it in the city centre and the group that preferred a site outside. The latter prevailed, and the choice fell on the “Mattonaia” district which, though still within the city walls, was not completely developed, indeed there were still many parks and gardens. The new Temple was opened on 24 October 1882. Two seemingly opposite, but actually related approaches influenced the design. On the one hand there was the influence of Christian churches and the Old Spanish synagogues, and on the other was desire to express Jewish identity through a distinctive architectural style. The final result, the “child” of nineteenth century Eclecticism, was something new that combined Moorish, Byzantine and Romanesque elements. The exterior, divided into three parts in both length and width, is clad in white and pink stone. The three main doors are surmounted by Moresque arches. The prayer hall, or sanctuary, is square with two lateral naves and an apse at the back, where the Aron Hakodesh, decorated with Venetian style mosaics, is located. The walls are decorated with Moorish arabesques highlighted with gold, and geometric patterns, by the painter Giovanni Panti. The central dome is situated directly above the intersection of the two wings. The dome is divided into sections; wooden grilles protect the windows and the central opening that lets light into the room. The pews, the podium, the pulpit, and the bronze lamps were all designed together and were made by leading Florentine craftsmen. The synagogue is considered one of the most beautiful buildings erected in nineteenth century Italy. The decorations and the architecture itself were inspired by Italian and foreign models, so that the Florence synagogue, in addition to being an extraordinary living testimony to the history of the Jews of Florence, is also a perfect example of European innovations in art and architecture of the period.
Continuation to the Jewish Museum. The design of the Museum, strongly backed by Rabbi Fernando Belgrado, was initiated in 1981 as a result of the donation of Marta del Mar Bigiavi. The first exhibit occupied the first floor in a room behind the women’s gallery and included the historical section and the furniture and home furnishings of synagogue worship. The project was designed by the architect Alberto Boralevi, with the exhibition design by Dora Smooth. The second part of the museum, opened in 2007, is located on the top floor, and was designed by the architect Renzo Funaro in collaboration with the architect Michael Tarroni and was set up by Dora Smooth and for the textile industry section by Laura Zaccagnini. This time the museum was divided into two sections: the first floor were the furnishings ceremonial use in the synagogue, in the latter have been moved to objects for domestic worship. One room, curated by Renzo Funaro and Liana Funaro, was dedicated to the Holocaust.
The choice of rooms and Museum set up has been done based on museological and conservation considerations. First, it was decided to set it in the Temple which, due to its artistic and historical importance for its monumentality, not only represents the ideal, but it has become an integral part of the course of Jewish History in Florence. The cellars, while beautiful and impressive, but who did not have security policies because of the danger of floods (the last of which, in 1966, came up to two meters in height above the height difference created by the steps outside), have been discarded. It is a relatively small museum, but very impressive. Free time, then dinner and overnight stay.

Breakfast and departure to Livorno. The town has an incredibile tradition concerning Hebrew culture. It offers a unique example of monumental synagogue. It is located on the site of the former synagogue (which was destroyed during the 2nd World War bombardment), in the plaza named after Elijah Benamozegh, the synagogue opened in 1962 and became well known for its architecture. The synagogue houses the Jewish archives and the offices of various Jewish organizations.
Rabbinical College – The building of the former Rabbinical college and Istituto delle pie scuole israelitche, set up in 1825, can be found near the Livorno synagogue. Jewish Museum/Marini Oratory – Immediately following the post-war period, this building, owned by the Marini family until 1867, was used as a synagogue. Currently it houses the Jewish community’s kindergarten and museum. The museum has an ark from the old synagogue, which was said to be brought to Livorno by refugees from the Iberian peninsula. The museum also has a roll of Lyon’s fabric embroidered by Livornese Jews and an 18th century Ketubah. Jewish Cemeteries – There are three Jewish cemeteries in Livorno. The first Jews of Livorno buried their dead at the Milinacci beach. In 1648 Jews were given permission to use an open field near Via Pompilia, known as campaccio, for a cemetery. A second cemetery was opened in 1738 at Via Corallo. These two cemeteries were expropriated in 1939 and the gravestones were moved to the new cemetery in the Stagno area, which was opened in 1837. This third cemetery is still in use and contains plaques commemorating those who died in World War I and those who perished in the Holocaust. City Archives in the Palazzo della Prefettura – The city archives contain a lot of information about the Jewish community of Livorno. Piazza Attias – Named after the prominent Jewish family, this piazza is located on the area where the Attias mansion spanned. The Attias tomb is located in Livorno’s third Jewish cemetery. Located near the piazza is a gray building with green shutters, which contains a plaque commemorating Amedeo Modigliani, a famous 19th century Jewish, Livornese painter. Monumento dei Quattro Morri – Located on the waterfront, this statue commemorates Ferdinand who invited Jewish refugees to Livorno in 1590. After the tour, dinner and overnight stay.


Breakfast and morning at disposal to walk by the center of the city. Lunch and after that, departure to Roma, in time for the returning flight.

Rome, Florence and Livorno – Jewish experience
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