Today only a few Jewish families have survived and, in the old people's home run by the community, a dozen or so old folk keep up the ancient tradition of stubbornly preserving their identity.
Along the streeets that border the canals we can still see the holes in the marble where heavy bars were inserted to enclose and isolate that area from the rest of the city during the night.
The sunagogues in Venice, like this one on the picture, are among the oldest in Europe.
Following a decree of the Signoria in 1527, the Jews lived in simple buildings, some of which were even eight storeys high, joined to others by means of unusual stairs and ladders.
The name ghetto probably derives from the activity pf the foundries which in this district cast metals for making weapons. With the time the name ghetto was extended to all the European districts destined exclusevely for Jews.
"Li Giuidei debbano tutti abitur unidi." With these words, in 1516, the Senate of the Republic, and precisely Zaccaria Dolfin, ordered that all the Jews be segregated in the northern part of the city, between the Grand Canal and Cannaregio. And this state of affairs remained until 1797, when the French army pulled down the doors of the Ghetto.
Earlier in 20th century, in 1938, there were 1.471 Jews living in the tower houses in the Ghetto, whereas in the 17th century there had been more then five thousand.
The Museo Ebraico in the Ghetto section of Cannaregio offers a short tour of three of the five remaining synagogues in Venice's small Orthodox Jewish community (at its height the Jewish community here numbered about 5,000). You just would never guess that some of these buildings had synagogues inside, sometimes on the upper floors. They're small but beautiful, and each different from the other as one is Germanic, one Spanish, and one Levantine. Unfortunately you can't take pictures inside, so you'll just have to go and see them for yourself!
Tours are given once an hour at half past the hour, at Campo Ghetto Nuovo, in Cannaregio.
The main sqaure or piazza of the Ghettto is a lovely wide open space with trees and a couple of cafes. Ideal place to rest the feet and people watch here whilst you try and spot where the synagouges are located!
They are often above shops or museums so they are not immediately obvious....but look out for the domes on top of the buildings!
Levatines and Ashkenazim, Italian and Spanish Jews all lived together in the Ghetto for many years - including the plague of 1630 - until Napoleon according them equal rights in 1797 when the gates were opened to them. At its height, around 1650, the Ghetto housed about 4,000 people. Before World War II there were still about 1,300 Jews in the Ghetto, but 289 were deported by the Nazis and only seven returned. Today a poignant memorial to the Jewish holocaust can be seen in the square.
This is the Jewish 'ghetto' section of Venice. It was the first place (1516) to receive this name (which has now come to mean something else) when the Jewish population was limited to the Carnareggio region and kept there by guards. I happened to stroll through on a holy day, and people were standing outside the synagogue and most shops were closed.
When you go to Venice, take a little while to go to the Jewish Ghetto. It contains a few shops, three synagogues, and a great resteurant, and usually has very few tourists. From the train station, take a left and walk down that street until you see signs for the Ghetto. It's really close to the station. While your there, look at the fine jewlery and silversmith shops, I purchased a great silver necklace for twenty euros. There is a museum that gives tours for eight euros about the history of the Ghetto and the Synagogues. For a long time, the walls to the ghetto were closed, business was restricted, and the residents werent allowed to leave. Hence, a very tight knit community grew within the walls. Everyone is very open and friendly with outsiders and English, Italian, German, and Hebrew is spoken by most residents. The ghetto is a fascinating and often forgotten part of Venice.
See the ghetto. It was the first one, founded, I think, in the 1300s, as the neighborhood where Jews were restricted to live. So the Italian word, ghetto, came to mean refer to all such neighborhoods all over Europe. It's a sad history, but Jewish life continues freely in Venice's ghetto today, as a testament to the resilience of the people (and of human beings in general), and there is a small museum of Judaica. It's also a quiet neighborhood, not as jam-packed with tourists as elsewhere in the city, and it's also where we had our best meal while in Venice.
One of the most beautiful and fascinating corners of Venice to visit is the Jewish Ghetto. Located in Cannaregio, this is where the Jewish population was confined at the beginning of the 16th century. The area includes 2 synagogues, a holocost memorial and several shops selling judaica.
This Jewish bakery window in the Ghetto, loaded with sweet goodies emanated an incredible inviting aroma.
The Ghetto in the district of Cannaregio was created in the sixteenth century and was the first in the world.
Just wandering around the Ghetto area can be quiet peaceful and traditional craftmen can be seen working at their trade. Here local carpenters are working on some antique furniture.
The ghetto is already mentioned elsewhere - this is the jewish bakery in the Ghetto area. Some lovely treats on sale in here... :-))