The center of Italy’s cultural and political life, Rome has one of the greatest concentrations of artistic treasures and historic monuments of the world. The Roman Jewish community is the oldest of the Diaspora: its ancient origins, its rich historical and artistic heritage, and monuments that have survived to the present day make the community of Rome a unique example not only in Italy but in the whole Diaspora.
This long continuous presence has left traces stratified with those of the other inhabitants with whom through good and bad the Jews have lived for over two millennia. Thus many ancient Roman monuments bear signs or memories for their presence. One great example is the Arch of Titus, in the Roman Forum, with scenes showing the deportation of Jews from Palestine, including prisoners carrying a seven-branched candelabrum to Rome after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. A constant factor in the Jewish history of Rome was papal policy. For centuries it meant persecution and discrimination.
There are several places of Jewish interest and the most important is surely the Ghetto, the specific area bounded by the Isola Tiberina section of the Tiber, the Ponte Fabricio (Ponte Quattro Capi), Via del Portico d’Ottavia and Piazza delle Cinque Scole. This was the area designated as Rome’s Ghetto by Pope Paul IV in the bull ‘Cum nimis absurdum’ of July 14th, 1555. It is today the center of Jewish life, with the most important synagogue and a Jewish school, kosher restaurants and shops. This area is very surprising since Jews were already living here in Roman times.