If you are on a Mediterranean cruise, do not miss a chance to discover Jewish heritage in Rome! According to a well-known medieval saying, “All roads lead to Rome”, and if your cruise on the Mediterranean Sea leads you to the “Caput mundi” (the ancient capital of the world) as well, we will be delighted to show you all the city’s marvels on our Rome cruise excursion that incorporates both general city highlights and Jewish heritage! We will be happy to arrange a transfer directly from Civitavecchia, Rome’s nearest port, in case you need it.
It is no coincidence that Rome is known worldwide as the "Eternal City". Time seems to have stopped in Rome, with monuments and archaeological sites that turn a simple walk through the streets of the city into a fantastic dive into the past.
In fact, with its colossal amount of historical heritage, the result of 3000 years of urban development, Rome is a real open air museum. The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Terme di Caracalla and the Pantheon echo the splendid era of the Roman Empire, while the centuries-old power of the Catholic Church can be found in the opulent basilicas, led of course by the St Peter’s Basilica.
Rome’s unrivalled artistic heritage is everywhere around you as you stroll through its vibrant streets: you’ll come across masterpieces by Michelangelo, paintings by Caravaggio, frescoes by Raphael and fountains by Bernini at every turn; while ancient statues, Byzantine mosaics and Renaissance frescoes hide behind the doors of every museum and church.
On our Rome cruise excursion, we will delve into the city’s fascinating Jewish history, one of a kind in the world!
The oldest Jewish community in Europe
Jews settled down in Rome more than two thousand years ago, making the Roman Jewish community the oldest in Europe. From the ruins of ancient synagogues and catacombs to the Great Synagogue (Tempio Maggiore di Roma) dating back to the early 20th century, you will find traces of Jewish heritage scattered throughout the city.
The Jewish community in Rome dates back to 161 BCE, soon after the start of Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ kingdom in Jerusalem. Representatives were sent to seek help against the king’s oppressive rule, but soon many other Jews decided to move to Rome because of the good commercial opportunities. After 70 CE, when Titus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, the community grew. The Roman Jews have their own language, a mixture of Hebrew and Italian, and their own culture, as their community was founded much before the division of the Jewish world into Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews.
Rome actually became a refuge for Sephardic Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492, and for the Ashkenazi Jews fleeing from the constant persecutions they suffered during the middle Ages.
By a papal degree, In 1555 the Jews were confined to a ghetto next to the Tiber River. For over three centuries, Jews were restricted to doing only certain types of jobs, and were urged to convert. This ended with the unification of Italy in 1870, and when the Ghetto was finally demolished.
On the eve of WWII, during Mussolini’s fascist regime, Jews were banned from schools and professions, but it was not until 1943, when the German occupied Italy, that the situation took a tragic turn. Even after paying a ransom of 50 kilos of gold that the SS demanded from the Jewish community, about 2091 of the 9,000 Jews in Rome were immediately sent to the death camps. Others managed to hide in the ruins, and some even hid in the Colosseum.
Nowadays, the Jewish community in Rome counts 15,000 people. All Synagogues are Orthodox, both Italian and Sephardic; there are also a Jewish school and a small yeshiva that ordains Italian rabbis. Our Rome shore excursion will give you a chance to explore the Roman Jews’ unique traditions!
While you discover all of Rome historic and artistic layers, keep in mind that a trip to the charismatic “città eterna” (eternal city) wouldn’t be a fulfilling one without indulging in the dolce vita, a fundamental part of the Roman experience. Slow down the tempo and treat yourself to an aperitivo (drink and snack) on one of the many pretty piazzas; have a truly Roman meal in a convivial neighbourhood trattoria, where superb local dishes like the Tonnarelli cacio e pepe and the Saltimbocca alla Romana are a must on the menu.
Dive into the past and the present of one of the world’s most astonishing cities on our Rome, Caput mundi cruise excursion!