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Bursting at the seams with Renaissance architecture and frescoes, Ferarra deserves its title as one of the most impressively gorgeous and iconic Italian cities. Encompassed by the original city walls, the town is perhaps most famous for Este Castle, a distinctive medieval fortification built for the ruling family of the city.
Like in most Northern Italian cities, the Jewish community of Ferrara thrived from the 13th through 15th centuries, what is more unique is that the ruling family, the Estes, declared themselves the “Protectors of the Jews” and refused an explicit papal order to expel their Jewish population. This status meant that Ferrara became a refuge for Jews from around the Mediterranean, until the Estes moved to Modena and life became more difficult overnight. The community reached its height in the early 20th century, when an estimated 1300 Jews called Ferrara home.
After the holocaust, that number went down to ~100, but many features of the original community survive. The Synagogue has been turned into a Jewish Museum, chronicling the story of Jewish life in Ferrara. The Renaissance Jewish Cemetery lies on the edge of the historic walls. Walk the streets of the former Ghetto, now a part of Ferrara’s Old Town. And explore the rest of the beauty of this quaint historic town on a Jewish heritage tour of Ferrara.
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