The Ghetto and the Jewish community in Rome plays an important role in the history and
culture of the city. The term ghetto originates from the name for the Jewish quarter of 15th
Rome's ghetto, established by Pope Paul IV in 1555, is the oldest Jewish quarter in Europe.
Originally, it was entirely walled-in with two access gates that were locked every night. Its
perimeter ran from today’s Via di Portico d’Ottavia to Piazza dell Cinque Scole, near the Tiber
Despite the Roman Jews being subject to strict laws and restrictions, the Ghetto’s streets
witnessed the growth of the Jewish community. Over the centuries it became home to over 7000
In 1808 Napoleon ended the Jewish ghettos all around Europe, but the freedom of the Jews of
Rome lasted only until Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. It was not until the reunification of Italy, in
1861, with the end of the Papal domination of Rome, that the Jews were finally allowed to live as
During the post-unification period from 1870 up to the beginning years of the twentieth century,
the narrow, winding alleys of the old Jewish Ghetto, as well as many old buildings, were
demolished to make way fornew construction and new streets including Via del Portico
d’Ottavia and Via delTempio.
The twentieth century brings the darkest chapter in the history of the Ghetto with Nazi
occupation during WWII. Nazi raids in October of 1943 bloodied the streets of the
neighborhood when between 1000-2000 Jews were deported. Today a plaque in Piazza delle
Cinque Scole honors the victims and serves as a warning to future generations.