Five Synagogues of Venice

In Venice, the four ethnicities living in the ghetto formed five separate synagogues - The Portuguese and Spanish, the Italian, the Sephardic, and the German, along with a private synagogue.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Venice
Accademia Bridge
A beautiful wooden bridge, one of only four bridges to span the Grand Canal
Gallerie dell’Accademia
Located on the south Bank of the Grand Canal, the Gallerie dell'Accademia showcases a collection of masterpieces of Venetian paintings from the 15th to 18th centuries.
Squerariol - Gondola Manufacturers
Watch the gondola manufactory process, a craft dating through the centuries.
Remer - gondola rows
Enjoy a demonstration of how the oars and rowlocks are designed and cut.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
This world-class waterfront museum features the work of world famous artists including Dalí, Picasso and Magritte.
Vitruvian Man
Though quite small, this work by Galileo is one of his most famous and hangs in the Accademia Galleries.

Related Tours

Venice Jewish Heritage: Private Walking Tour with Jewish Museum
Discover the long history of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, established in 1516 it is one of the oldest gated Jewish communities with a rich, tragic – and ultimately inspiring history. 

On your private Jewish Heritage tour, you will:

  • Learn about the history and persecution of the Jewish people in Italy;
  • Walk through Venice’s ghetto established in 1516 by the doge, with the decree that Jews should live segregated from Christians;
  • See Jewish Bridge, which separated The ghetto (the word originates from the copper foundry or ‘ghetto’) which was to be walled and gated with its inhabitants locked in at night;
  • Hear about the strict rules imposed on the Jewish people: what work they could do (money lending, printing) and how they should dress (with yellow markers on their clothes);
  • Discover how this appalling set-up, against the odds, led to the Jewish Ghetto becoming a thriving cultural hub over several centuries;
  • Learn about the publishing of the Hebrew Bible and Talmud;
  • Find out how Shakespeare-based characters and storylines in the Merchant of Venice off on the lives of people who lived in the ghetto and Shylock’s famous speech calling for Jewish equality ‘if you prick us, do we not bleed?”;
  • See the exterior of the five synagogues located within minutes of each other;
  • Explore the small area of the Ghetto, rich in history, beautiful architecture and sometimes harrowing yet inspiring stories;
  • Join a 1-hour group tour of the Jewish Museum and see the inside of one of the Venetian Synagogues.
Please note: Tours in The Jewish Museum & Synagogues are delivered exclusively by their guides, so you will be joining a small group tour at the end of your private tour.

Venice is surely one of the most beautiful and romantic cities on Earth but it has a darker history for the Jews who lived there. 

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice was established five hundred years ago in 1516 by order of the doge and negotiated for by the Jewish Community. The word ghetto originated in Venice, it was used to describe the copper foundry ‘ghetto’. 

However, it was a way to both include and exclude Jews, who had worked in the city as merchants and moneylenders for centuries, by forcing them to live in a gated community and wear yellow coloured insignia like a badge, stitched circle or a hat, separated from the Christians and locked in at night. Only Jewish doctors did not have to wear yellow, being in high demand they were allowed to wear black hats. 

Although they were locked in at night, twelve years after the Ghetto was established, the Jewish people felt secure enough to build their own synagogues. The area was so small, however, that they had to build upwards, the first vertical city. 

Many Jews from all over Europe and further afield - Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the Levant - came to settle in the Ghetto, making it a multicultural and cosmopolitan place to live! Almost all Hebrew books printed before 1650 came from the Jewish Ghetto of Venice. 

The Jews were liberated by Napoleon - and indeed by the end of the 19th Century were active in political and public life. Luigi Luzzati, who began his political career organizing an aid society for the gondoliers, was elected Italy’s first Jewish Prime Minister in 1910.

Of course, we know things then deteriorated in the 20th century with the rise of the Nazis – the ghetto made it very easy for the Jewish community to be rounded up by the Fascists, and your guide will tell of this very dark period in Venetian history. 

Finally, learn about contemporary life in Venice for the Jewish Community. Visit some of the major public buildings, including the Italian synagogue and Scola Levantina, stop by the ThaumArt Gallery and end outside the Jewish Museum. Your entrance tickets are included for you to explore at your leisure. 


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