Exploration of the Ghetto should begin at the Great Synagogue in theJewish Museum of
Rome.The museum will take you on a fascinating journey through the more than two thousand
year history of the Roman Jewish community and its enduring link to the Eternal City. The
museum visit includes a tour of the Tempio Maggiore (the Synangogue). (Do not forget that the
museum and the synagogue are closed on Saturdays).
Just outside the eastern gate of the Ghetto, there is a corner from which you can see theTeatro di
Marcello, the “Small Colosseum”. The theatre was built on the Campo Marzio beginning under
Julius Caesar and finished under Augustus. It was dedicated to his nephew Marco Claudio
Marcello who died five years before its completion. It is the oldest stone theater in Rome standing
today. It was built on three levels, and could hold nearly 13,000 spectators, who would come to
watch acting, dancing or singing performances.
Piazza Matteiis home to the Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe), one of the Eternal
City’s hidden gems. This late Renaissance fountain was designed by Giacomo della Porta for
Duke Muzio Mattei. The distinctive bronze turtles were added by Bernini in 1658. As legend has
it, the Duke Mattei, whose palace overlooks the square, commissioned the fountain to be built in
one night in order to impress his future father-in-law, a man who did not want to give the Duke
his daughter’s hand in marriage.
In 1572 Gregorio XIII decreed that every Saturday the adult members of the Jewish community
had to go to the smallchurch of San Gregorioto attend "compulsory sermons”. The purpose
was to convert the Jews to Christianity, however many would stuff wax in their ears to muffle the
priest’s words. On the façade of the church there is an eloquent inscription in both Latin and
"I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, that walk in a way that is not
good, after their own thoughts; a people that provokes me to my face continually . . ."
A walk through the ghetto must include a visit to thePortico d’Ottavia,a giant portico rising
from nearly 6 meters below ground-level. It was built by Augustus in 27 BC in honor of his sister
Octavia. After a 14-year-long restoration, the portico was opened to the public in December
2017, and is finally visible in all its beauty and splendor.