Did you know that giudecche were neighbourhoods inhabited by Jews, open to all and with unlimited access? And that ghettoes, on the other hand, closed and walled in, were established later, starting in the 16th century? Some open Jewish quarters survived, for example in Livorno. Did you know that in the 1st century B.C.E. the Jewish community in Rome numbered 40,000 people? That's more people than the total number of Jews residing in all of Italy today. Jewish communities have resided in Italy since ancient times and indeed predate the division between the Ashkenazis and the Sephardim. In fact, German Jews descend from Italian groups who had crossed the Alps. Anna Foa leads the reader on a voyage through Jewish sites in Italy, from Syracuse to Venice; describes their history and geography; and tells stories about burnings, Marranos (forced converts to Christianity), traders, popes, and adventurers.
This book is part of a new series hosting distinguished authors who transform Italian travel itineraries into passageways full of meaning. A visit to a museum, a historic city, or a natural park should not be a mere review of masterpieces or monuments, but rather a historically and culturally harmonious journey, or better yet a set of potentially parallel voyages, giving substance to stones, meaning to maps, colour to the past. Readers will feel like main characters participating in Italy's long history.
Anna Foa used to teach Modern History at the Sapienza University in Rome.