Though Rome’s Jewish Ghetto no longer officially exists (it was abolished in 1882), the neighborhood is still the center of Rome’s Jewish community, the oldest in Italy. The city’s 19th-century synagogue— home to the Jewish Museum of Rome— is here, as are winding lanes lined with kosher restaurants, markets, and butchers.
Like many cities in Europe, Rome required its Jewish residents to live in a separate, walled-off neighborhood during the Middle Ages. The Roman Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Roma) was established in 1555, when the city erected walls around this area in the historic center; these barriers were torn down only after the ghetto was abolished in 1882. Today, despite its unhappy history, the Jewish Ghetto is now one of Rome’s most beautiful neighborhoods.
Walking tours focused on the city’s Jewish life and food tours highlighting the neighborhood’s cuisine are excellent ways to discover the history and culture of this unique corner of Rome. You can also book a private tour of the area, allowing for customized experiences for those with limited mobility, food allergies, or other requirements or preferences. For even more insight into Jewish Rome, the synagogue’s museum has a curated collection of documents and artifacts related to local Jewish history.
In addition to its Jewish cultural sights, the Ghetto is home to a number of ancient ruins—the Portico of Octavia (Portico d’Ottavia or Porticus Octaviae) and the Theatre of Marcellus (Teatro di Marcello) are the most significant— and the iconic Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) marble mask at the Basilica of St. Mary in Cosmedin (Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin), made famous in the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck film Roman Holiday.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Most small-group Jewish Ghetto tours are on foot or by bike, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
- The Jewish Ghetto is located near Rome’s bustling Campo de’ Fiori outdoor market, and many group tours include visits to both.
How to Get There
The Jewish Ghetto is in Rione Sant’Angelo, directly across the Tiber River from the Trastevere neighborhood and not far from the Roman Forum. There are no metro stops near the Ghetto, but a number of city bus lines connect it with the train station and other parts of the city.
When to Get There
A Rome tour focused on the Jewish Ghetto is best scheduled when the neighborhood businesses are open; many close for the Sabbath from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset.
The Turtle Fountain
The Eternal City is known for its dozens of beautiful fountains, and one of the prettiest is the Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe) in the ghetto’s Piazza Mattei. Dating from the late Renaissance, this small fountain’s original dolphin decorations were replaced by turtles due to low water pressure, resulting in the endearing version we see today.