Just a short walk and across the river from the Vatican is the oldest Jewish community in Europe. The Jews were in Rome before there were Christians. Think on that for a moment. When Rome became christian things did not go well for the Jewish community. The Jewish Ghetto was formed in 1550. A pope made discriminatory rules on what Jews could and could not do and forced them to live behind walls. The people were locked in at night. The ghetto lies on low land next to the Tiber River and was known for floods and malaria. The list of humiliations wrought by the papacy can be found HERE. In 1888 the walls came down but the community stayed and became and integral part of Roman life. For a short time things were better. Then the Nazis came.
The Nazis promised they would spare the Jews if they paid a ransom in gold. The community paid up and, surprise, the Nazis betrayed them. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people were taken to camps. The number of abducted is not certain what is known is only 16 survived. And yet, the community survived and now thrives.
Today the ghetto is home to some of Rome’s best restaurants and most expensive real estate. Burt and I visited twice for food. The restaurants are split into those that sell dairy and those that sell meat. The two food groups cannot be served in the same restaurant here because they require separate serving dishes and implements to remain kosher. So one day we ate dairy and the next day we ate meat. Vegetables can go with either. This neighborhood has a homey feeling. The streets and benches were filled with residents speaking Hebrew and Italian. It felt like we were in a community bistro not the tourist-tired cafes of Rome.
If you’re going to Rome I insist you visit this neighborhood. Next up Hadrian’s Mausoleum.