Pitigliano’s Jewish Ghetto
In the heart of Pitigliano’s Old Town, at the beginning of via Marghera, just below the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, is the Ghetto, the ancient Jewish quarter.
Built in the second half of the 16th century, after the arrival of the Jewish community in Pitigliano, the Ghetto was the hub of Jewish community life in the Tuscan village.
In the decades following the arrival of the Jewish community in Pitigliano, a Synagogue, ritual bath, bakery, kosher butcher shop and cellar were built in rooms carved in and around the tufa rock cliff.
All these rooms and the Synagogue are now part of Pitigliano’s Jewish museum, which is open every day except Saturdays. Tickets are €5.
Outside Pitigliano is the Jewish Cemetery, but it is closed to the public.
A special place
We walked around the old town known as Little Jerusalem in Italy in August. It was very quite and peaceful, full of character and without all the souvenir and commercial shops you find in a lot of hilltop towns in Tuscany.
It was rich in history.
The Jewish people came here to escape Catholic persecution.
We couldn’t visit the synagogue as there were armed guards at the door allowing no visitors on the Sunday we visited.
This is a sign of the times……
Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
An Interesting Visit
It was interesting to learn more about the Jewish community in Pitigliano, and in Italy in general. I felt that going to the museum really gave an insight into how life in the area would have been well over 500 years ago. Highly recommend it.
Walking around here gave me goosebumps. You could almost hear the voices of the people who have gone before us. Each room offered an insight into how life must have been, having once again been pushed out of their home, the Jews from Rome & Florence came here……and lived in harmony with the existing residents.
Visit the Jewish Ghetto
My sister in law wanted to visit the old Jewish Ghetto and Synagogue in Pitiagliano. It was a wonderful experience except the Synagogue was closed for the time we were there. The old quarter was clean and interesting to see, especially since it has such history and goes back to the 15th century. Also the views from that area were wonderful. If we get back to Italy we will go there again.
A Surprising View of Jewish Italian life
Thriving under an open minded Duke Orsino, oppressed by the Di Medicis, emancipated in the 19th century at at its height comprising 1/4 of the Pitigliano population, the Jewish community was an integral aspect of life in this tiny town. You can see the heart of their old community centre with mikveh, bakery, butchery and synagogue. Sadly, not enough people to sustain it as a living community, but a wonderful museum and tribute. Local people saved all their Jewish families under Nazi occupation to their great credit. There is also an excellent cafe attached.
Jewish History in the Medieval Mountaintops
Great town to visit. Unbelievable views and history of times gone by. Thumbs up for restoring the buildings and protecting the history.
So beautiful, emotional and uplifting to visit this area and learn about it’s Jewish heritage and history. Didn’t know anything about efforts to save Jews in Italy during WWII until I visited here. We had a local guide, who was excellent, but you could visit and understand most everything without a guide. Security checked bags before going into the synagogue. Strollers not permitted.
Amazing there is still so much left
Very uplifting to see that so long ago two communities lived together in harmony. Seeing the old photos on the walls brought it into reality. The Synagogue is beautiful and there are ceremonies there now from people allover the world. A great legacy.
Step into the past
Pitigliano is a beautiful town, astonishingly sited on a sheer cliff of tufa in an area rich with Etruscan sites and remains. However, the Synagogue is a more recent reminder of humanity . Beautifully preserved and restored it gives an insight into the world of the Jewish faith and the insularity imposed on it by those who both tolerated and welcomed it. Apart from the religious aspect there is a great opportunity to see the necessary industries for all people of previous centuries, i.e. slaughterhouse, tanning and bakery to name a few. Do take a look if you are in the area.
Jewish life in Pitigliano
What a overview. The museum and area is set up not only as the remains of the butcher, synagogue, mikva and more of the Jewish community of Pitigliano. It also has explanations of rituals and holidays and more regarding Jewish life.
The Jewish Ghetto
The ghetto or Jewish quarter is a place where Jewish citizens were confined to following the enactment of restrictive laws and decrees. The first Italian ghetto was in Venice, originally it was the neighbourhood where the copper foundries were built. In 1516 the government of the Serenissima Republic of Venice forced any Jews who lived in the city to settle in the Ghetto. The Ghetto of Venice was expanded in the following years to accommodate an ever increasing number of inhabitants. The neighbourhood was open during the day but closed from dusk to dawn. The Ghetto stood until 1797, the year the Serenissima Republic of Venice fell.
The example of the Venetian Ghetto was taken up by other Italian and European cities. Until the Middle Ages there were no restrictions for the Jewish population that resided in the Giudecca, the neighbourhoods where Jews lived and did their business. They did not live in these neighbourhood because of any government law, but as a way of protecting their cultural and religious identity.
Only after the enactment of race laws were Jews forcibly confined to ghettos. In 1555 Pope Paul IV issued the Cum nimis absurdum bull, with which he imposed strong restrictions on the Jewish population and asked neighbouring states to establish ghettos. Between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 18th most of the cities where Jews lived had a ghetto. The same happened in Pitigliano, where Count Niccolò IV Orsini created the Jewish quarter that is now part of an outdoor museum.
Jews could not buy land that was not within the ghetto. Most were not even allowed to buy within the ghetto itself. They were forced to live exclusively inside the ghetto and very often, as the population grew, they became extremely populated and crowded neighbourhoods. At night, the ghettos were closed and no one was allowed to enter or exit until dawn.