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Jewish Ghetto

For over 300 years all the Jews in Rome were restricted to this small area; today it is a vibrant and fascinating district.

TravelCurious Tip

Try some delicious carciofi alla giudìa - a traditional Jewish-style fried artichoke.

Cum nimis absurdum

The Jewish Ghetto, also known as the Ghetto of Rome, is a historic district on the banks of the Tiber. There has been a large Jewish community in Rome since the 2nd century BC. Originally the Jews were allowed to settle in the city; after the Roman wars with Judea, however, they began to be treated as second-class citizens. In 1555, by order of the Pope Paul IV’s Papal Bull 'Cum nimis absurdum' - which takes its name from the first line, ‘Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery...’ - the area was sectioned off and became a ghetto which was controlled by the Papacy, until its abolition in 1870 with the unification of Italy.

Life here was extremely hard. Jews were heavily taxed, only allowed to work unskilled jobs, forced to attend Catholic sermons on Shabbat, and had to wear yellow pointed hats or veils to mark them out when they ventured outside the ghetto. It was an area of severe poverty and overcrowding, with housing built higher and higher above its narrow streets to accommodate the growing population. The district was also frequently flooded. Having been isolated from the rest of the city for over three centuries, the Jews here developed their own Judeo-Roman dialect, which you can still hear spoken by some locals today.

Kosher cuisine

Today it is a thriving district, and its streets are full of excellent kosher bakeries and restaurants. Much of the area is taken up by the Great Synagogue of Rome, which was built at the start of the 20th century and dwarfs most of Rome’s Christian churches. It incorporates eye-catching and eclectic architectural features as a celebration of Jewish freedom; its distinctive squared aluminium dome is the only one in the city.

Behind the synagogue is the ancient Portico of Octavia, built by the first Emperor Octavian Augustus and dedicated to his sister. From the 16th century, it was used as a fishmarket and formed a gateway to the ghetto. In the Middle Ages half the portico was converted into a bricked archway which linked it to the Church of Sant’ Angelo in Pescheria; this half-and-half structure from two distinct periods is still visible. Just down the pathway from the Portico, you can also see the only remaining section of the ghetto wall.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Capitoline Museums
Yet another stunning museum of ancient art, in two Michelangelo-designed palaces.
Capitoline Hill
The ceremonial centre of ancient Rome, rejuvenated by Michelangelo in the Renaissance and offering amazing views over the Forum.
Bocca della Verità
Don’t get your hand bitten off by the Mouth of Truth!
Theatre of Marcellus
The Theatre of Marcellus was an ancient Roman arena built by the Emperor Augustus.
Temple of Hercules Victor
The unique Temple of Hercules Victor is the oldest marble building in Rome, and one of its best preserved ancient temples.
Temple of Portunus
One of the oldest and best preserved ancient Roman temples, dedicated to the god of portals and cattle.

Related Tours

A Taste of Rome Private Walking Tour: Eat Like An Italian
Munch your way through this tantalising food tour of Rome.

  • Meet your guide at your hotel, if you opt for hotel pick up and enjoy a quick transfer to the start of your tour.
  • Begin your day at the market in Campo De' Fiori, where your senses will come alive with all the smells, tastes, and colours.
  • Learn the history of the bustling area, including the darker side of history which include public executions in the square.
  • Enjoy an easy stroll through quaint Trastevere, where Julius Caesar built his garden villa, and indulge in bites as you go. 
  • Your tour finishes in an area of the city known as the Jewish Ghetto, where massive ruins from over two millennia ago will be the backdrop to our final tastings of the tour. 
Take a bite out of one of Rome’s tastiest neighbourhoods with this foodie tour through three enchanting areas of Rome. This is a great opportunity to experience authentic Italian cuisine and learn about the country’s delectable wines, whilst encountering a part of the city that is Rome through and through. Embrace the smells, buzz and charm of a neighbourhood where ordinary people live, eat and shop. Your tour guide will take you to the best local eateries, markets and shops, where you will not only get the chance to taste the delicacies but also learn about the people behind the magic. Understand the traditions and values that have produced such tasty good food for generations and see why Italian cuisine continues to be the trend setter for what we enjoy eating and cooking today. You will also have the chance to visit many key landmarks and sights and learn about the fascinating stories behind them.
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