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The Jewish Ghetto in Venice

two days

It was established during the rule of the Most Serene Republic of Venice in 1516, on a small island in the sestiere of Cannaregio, a district with many foundries.

In fact the word “ghetto” derives from the Venetian expression getar, which means  metal-casting, and it was used for the first time in Venice to refer to the enclave where the Jews lived in segregation until the fall of the Republic and the arrival of Napoleon in 1797.

Venice’s Ghetto was closed by gates and the inhabitants were forbidden to leave the area between dusk and dawn. Socially emarginated for both economic and religious reasons, the Jews were only permitted to carry out a limited number of professions like money-lending and running pawn shops, activities forbidden to the Venetian nobility for religious motives.

The word ghetto was subsequently used for segregated Jewish communities throughout Europe.

To reach the Venetian Ghetto take either the No. 1 or No. 2 vaporetto, get off at S. Marcuola – Ghetto, or take the Nos 41, 42, 51 or 52, and get off at Ponte delle Guglie – Ghetto.

From here you walk through the sotoportego that was formerly the site of one of the gates to the Ghetto Vecchio.

As you enter the Jewish ghetto you will notice that unlike the rest of Venice this district is distinguished by the height of its buildings, the looming case-torri.

In fact in order to house as many people as possible in a limited space the houses in the ghetto were forced to expand upwards, giving rise to buildings with up to eight floors and rather low ceilings.

The Jews in the ghetto belonged to five different schole that became synagogues: the Scola Grande Tedesca, the Scola Canton, the Scola Italiana, the Scola Levantina and the Scola Spagnola, which is the largest and most well-known of the Venetian synagogues.

The five synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, now restored and open to tourists taking part in guided tour, are the oldest in Europe.

The Ghetto Novo is the site of the Jewish Museum, opened in 1955 by the Jewish Community of Venice and expanded in 1986 by means of several donations; it has a display of ornamental fabrics, books and sacred objects used during religious ceremonies.

On a wall of the old Jewish Rest Home in the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo is a bas-relief by the Lithuanian artist Arbit Blatas in memory of the victims of the Holocaust who died in concentration camps.

Finally, you can take a vaporetto to the old Jewish cemetery, established in 1386 in a quiet corner of the Lido: a tranquil evocative place where memory survives and history and nature live in harmony.

Today the tiny Venetian Jewish community (a mere five hundred people) is still based in the ghetto where some of its members continue to live and where the Shabbat, the seventh day of the Jewish calendar, sanctified with rest and prayer, is still celebrated every Saturday.

There are a handful of bakeries selling typical breads and pastries (like unleavened bread), as well as some bookshops and workshops selling Jewish handicrafts.

In the sotoportego leading to the Gheto Vecio you’ll find Gam Gam, the only restaurant in Venice to serve typical Kosher dishes from the traditional Jewish cuisine.


Useful information: 

Jewish Museum

Cannaregio 2902/b
30121 Venice Italy
tel 041 715 359

fax 041 72 3007


Opening times:
1 June - 30 September: 10 – 7

1 October - 31 May: 10 – 6

Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays, 25 December, 1 January and 1 May

Guided visits to the synagogues
In Italian and English, hourly visits starting at 10.30 am; from 1 June to 30 September last visit at 5.30 pm, from 1 October to 31 May last visit at 3.30 pm. For religious motives the last tour on Fridays may be shortened or even cancelled.
Visits in German, French and Spanish can be arranged by booking in advance.

Guided visits to the ancient Jewish cemetery
In the spring and summer, Sundays at 2.30 pm.

You are advised to book in advance. Visits will be cancelled in case of poor weather.
Visits may also be arranged on other days of the week by booking in advance.
Booking required for groups and schools

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