Friday, October 8, 2010
The ancient Jewish quarter of Rome is commonly referred to as the "ghetto." Today it is one of the city's most charming and eclectic neighborhoods, known for its great restaurants serving traditional Roman cuisine and Jewish specialties, and home to a large Jewish community.
But in 1555 a Papal Bull ordered Jews–who had lived freely in Rome since antiquity–to be segregated in a walled sector with three gates that were locked at night, and subjected them to various restrictions on personal freedom, like limits to allowed professions and compulsory Catholic sermons on shabbat. Jews were disabled from owning any property even in the ghetto, yet had to pay a yearly tax for the "privilege" of living there.
In 1798 the Ghetto was legally abolished, and the Tree of Liberty was planted in Piazza delle Cinque Scole, but it was reinstated as soon as the Papacy regained control over the short-lived Napoleonic "Roman Republic." In 1848, during the brief Mazzini revolution, the ghetto was abolished once more, again temporarily. Finally in 1888 the city of Rome was able to tear down the ghetto's walls, and the area was fully reconstructed around the new Synagogue of Rome.
I usually have breakfast in Piazza Costaguti–the heart of the ghetto–before setting off on my culinary tours of the city. The early morning light is beautiful, and I enjoy observing the activity as shops begin to open, and kids scurry off to school.