Despite the unfortunate connotations associated with the word ghetto, the area of Rome where the Jews were once confined is, today, one of the most vibrant and charming in the whole city.
All that remains of the Jewish past is the Synagogue and a small piece of wall incorporated into a courtyard off the Piazza delle Cinque Scole. The small area where some 2000 Jews were forced to live by order of Pope Paul IV in 1555 lies next to the Tiber in the area of the IsolaTiberina.The area was chosen because at the time it was subject to frequent flooding and therefore not a desirable place to live. A wall was built – at the expense of the Jews – who were locked in at night. For some this was seen as a blessing for, if they were kept in, those who might do them harm were kept out.
These days, the area still known as the Ghetto is perfectly safe and much visited by tourists. There are many hotels and restaurants along the Via del Portico d’Ottaviawhich runs through the middle of the Ghetto. At Giggetto, a landmark since 1923, you can sample the renownedcarciofialla Judea – utterly delicious, crisp, deep fried artichokes. Or you could try Spaghetti bottarga (dried and cured fish roe)e carciofi, or juicy Costoletted’agnelloalloscottadito (Lamb fried cutlet) at the Kosher Taverna del Ghetto.
The Great Synagogue and Hebrew Museum are worth visiting to remind us of the way Jews have been treated over the years. A stone’s throw away you will find Portico d’ Ottavia and the church of ST. Angelo in Pescheria on the site of an old fish market, as well as Ponte Fabricio, the oldest bridge in Rome, built in 62 BC. The Romans sure knew how to build!