As you explore the Ghetto area you may be asked if you want to join a tour of the synagogues and if you want to see them inside then go as this is the only way (apart from a service) of seeing the inside of them.
Tours in English tend to begin half past the hour, and lasts approximately forty minutes.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Th Ghetto area really dates from 1516, when the Ghetto Nuovo became the Jewish quarter of Venice (and it is the Venetian ghetto which originally gave the word to the rest of the world).
At night, the area was sealed off by gates and guarded. In the daytime Jews could wander freely, but had to wear badges and/or caps to show their race.
You can still see where the gates once were in the Sottoportego Ghetto Nuovo and there are gaps which once housed the hinges.
Medieval Venetian Jews wre subject to a number of laws and restrictions.
Apart from being locked in at night (doctors were the only people allowed to leave the Ghetto at night), they were forbidden to take part in some trades, but encouraged in others (money-lending in particular).
It didn't maytter if they converted to Christianity:the law remained the same.
You can see a stone inscribed with the laws and regulations concerning what Jews and converts may or may not do (and the associated penalties) part-way down Calle di Ghetto Vecchio.
In 1938, right before the Big War, there were 1.471 Jews living in the Ghetto, whereas in the 17th century there had been more than five thousand. Today only two or three Jewish families have survived keeping up the ancient tradition and preserving their identity.
Just think of the Holocaust, remembered in the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo in a bas relief by Arbit Blatas, but also of the racist campaigns of the early twentieth century in the city. The recist campaigns excluded the Jews from public office and from using the beaches at Lido. On the door of the famous Harry's bar a sign was hung "No dogs and no jews allowed."
The synagogues in Venezia are among the oldest in Europe. Here you can see the Schola Canton, the Levantine, German and Spanish synagogues, the last of which was restructured by Galdassare Longhena. There is also a nursery school, a baker's producting unleavened bread, the Museum of Jewish Art and Culture and a Rabbi school where many Jewish students, especially from USA, come to study the Talmud.
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!
There were many Jews in Medieval Venice, so the Ghetto became overcrowded. Even when new areas were opened up (the Ghetto Vecchio in 1541, the Ghetto Nuovomisso in 1633) conditions were cramped.
Jews were not allowed to own property in the ghetto, so landlords created buildings with low ceilings and many floors (7 is most usual). The ghetto buildings were not allowed to be more than a third higher than others in the city. The architectural style in some parts of the Ghetto is, in consequence, quite different to the rest of Venice.
The history of Venice is not all about romantic canals and evocative gothic and renaissance art; it has its not so pleasant moments.
The former Jewish quarters centered around Campo del Ghetto Nuovo is regarded as the world's first ghetto - in the original sense of the word (not in its present, crime-and-grime associated context). This is where the city's Jews were relocated and locked up at night by the dominant Christian population and where they lived under tight rules, although they were allowed to practice their religion. This went on from the late 1500s to until the late 1700s when the Venetian republic fell, after which the Jews were given their freedom to live in other places in the islands.
Today, the campo is surrounded by Museum Ebraico (a museum devoted to Jewish religious artifacts), and four synagogues - Schola Canton, Schola Italiana, Schola Levantina, and Schola Spagnola.
In Medieval times (and earlier) Jews lent money, Christians did not. That is, historically, one of the main reasons for their continued persecution in so many countries. So much easier to organise persecution than pay one's debts........
If you look very carefully around the Campo, you can still see the legend 'Banco Rosso' over the lintel of number 2911.
Cannaregio is Venice's second largest sestiere, stretching across the north west of the city from the station almost to the Rialto Bridge. It's one of the few parts of the city where Venetians still live in great numbers. Its numerous restaurants offer some of the best cuisine available in Venice at very reasonable prices. Especially in and around the Ghetto area and the Foundamenta della Misericorda where we found a good selection of both regional and ethnic restaurants.
Canneregio was settled well before AD 1900, when the first dwellings were built on the islands of San Giovanni Crisostome and Santi Apostoli, close to Rialto.
Sestiere of Cannaregio.
North western of Piazza San Marco – a 12 minute walk.