City of Canals
Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, has the dubious distinction of being the city where the word “ghetto” originated. But this attests too, to an old Jewish history, as rich and varied as “The City of Canals” itself. Jewish merchants and moneylenders visited and worked here since as early as the 10th century. In 1516 Jews in Venice were forced to live in a closed-door “ghetto” --one of the Venetian islands where there had been a foundry with slag or “ghèto” in Italian, hence the origin of the name. This origin ghetto exists intact today and is the center of Jewish life.
The Scola Grande Tedesca and Scola Canton, both from the 16th century can still be visited today! Famous personalities included Rabbi Simone
Luzzato, Rabbi Leon da Modena and poetess Sara Coppio Sullam, whose salon drew many educated men and aristocrats. When Napoleon marched
into Venice in 1797 restrictions on Jewish residence were lifted. About 1,200 Jews were in Venice when German troops occupied the city in 1943. 205 people were deported to the extermination
camps, including Chief Rabbi Adolfo Ottolenghi.
Our tour of Venice will begin at the world’s most famous square: Piazza San Marco. Decisions throughout history which affected Venetian Jews were made here. In front of the magnificent Doge’s Palace we will discuss the Venetian government’s attitudes towards the Papacy on the one hand and the Jewish community on the other. We will then take a Traghetto (a gondola ferry) across the Grand Canal to visit the three areas of the Ghetto (Ghetto Nuovo, Ghetto Vecchio and Ghetto Novissimo), retracing the history of the Jewish Community of Venice from the 15th century up to modern day. Your guide will tell you about today’s community of about 500 people, served by five synagogues, a Jewish bookstore, a Jewish publishing house, a social center, a rest home, a museum, a yeshiva and a kosher restaurant. If time allows, we will visit the small Jewish Museum there. Located in the Campo of the Ghetto Novo, it is situated between the two most ancient Venetian synagogues.
If you are interested, you can join one of the group tours at the Jewish Museum at the end of your tour with Milk and Honey. These begin every hour and include a visit to three of the five original Venetian Synagogues. And then it is time to hop on a Vaporetto --a water ferry and have a glass of wine at dusk on St. Marco’s square.
Contact us today and we'll customize a tour to suit your wishes!