This will be my final Italy post! One of the major activities Noah and I did while I was Rome was a trip to the Great Synagogue and Museum. The Synagogue is located in what was formerly the Jewish ghetto, and it is still a working synagogue with services held three times a day.
The Great Synagogue was beautiful – very large and ornately decorated. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the synagogue or museum, so I don’t have photographs to share. I was unaware of this before, but Roman Jews consider themselves to be separate from both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. They have their own distinct pronunciation of Hebrew and their own tunes for prayers. There are currently 17 functioning synagogues in Rome (all orthodox – like most of the world outside of the US), and the Jewish community in Italy numbers about 35,000.
The former ghetto area around the synagogue still has a high Jewish population, and there are several kosher restaurants and bakeries, Judaica shops, and a Jewish school.
Although Rome doesn’t have a particularly bright history with regard to the Jews, they are one of the only European cities to have never expelled the Jews. The ghetto was imposed as a side effect of the Catholic Counter-Reformation to the Protestant Reformation. In response to the Protestant movement, the Catholic Revival cracked down on ‘heretics’ of all kinds and – as a result – reduced the rights of Jews. Until that time, Jews had enjoyed a fairly comfortable place within Roman society.
The ghetto, of course, changed all that and up to 9,000 Jews were forced in the seven-acre ghetto for 300 years. Although most of the original ghetto storefronts and buildings are destroyed, there are still some remnants of the past – such as this 6 story building:
And a church that stood at one of ghetto’s exits:
The church was strategically placed at the ghetto’s exit so Jews would be forced to see it upon leaving. Many Jews were made to go to the church on Shabbat to listen.
Although the area has a negative history, it is now a bustling and vibrant reflection of the thriving Jewish life that still exists within the city. They even have free wifi on the streets!
Or claim to…we couldn’t really get it to work. 🙂
After a long afternoon touring the Great Synagogue, museum, and ghetto, it was time for lunch.
For my last night in Italy, we decided to have a great feast. We went to a pizzeria called Da Francesco.
Although technically a pizzeria, the restaurant had an extensive menu. Since it was my last night, we decided to do as the Romans do and go for the multi-course meal. To start, there was bruschetta, antipasto, and roman style artichoke (basically just an artichoke with tons of olive oil…as far as I could tell).
For the primo (first) course, we shared a pasta dish – homemade spaghetti with porcino cheese and black pepper:
For the secondo (second, and main) course, I ordered a roasted chicken breast dish and Noah had pizza:
Everything was delicious, but our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs and we weren’t able to finish everything:
Overall, my trip was amazing. Between seeing the sights, eating great food, and visiting the most wonderful boyfriend in the history of the world, I had a great week. 🙂