The highlights below are from an 8-day trip I created for a Jewish family. They were foodies and loved history – and the art and architecture that went with it. Since they had already been to Rome, Florence and Venice, this time Emilia Romagna – the foodie capital of Italy – was a perfect fit. The region has many Jewish sites, which we prioritized to create an itinerary with fantastic food and a balance of Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and Jewish history.
A Very Short History Jewish settlement began in Emilia Romagna in the 13th century, and flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1555 Pope Paul IV decreed that Jewish people live in closed quarters, which began the age of the ghettos. In 1860 Jews in Italy were finally emancipated with full civic and religious rights. Today out of 4 million inhabitants in Emilia Romagna, there are only 400 Jewish people, however there are many Jewish sites to visit.
Bologna Perfect as a home base (especially if you want to eat well!) for doing day trips to the other cities listed below, allow half a day at the very minimum to visit Bologna‘s main tourist sights. The city has a Jewish quarter, a Jewish museum, and a synagogue. If you need to prioritize, just walk around the Jewish quarter.
Modena See the balsamic vinegar-making process or spend half a day at the nearby Ferrari factory / museum, and definitely allow a couple hours to walk around this pretty city. For Jewish sights, visit Ghetto square (piazza Mazzini) and the synagogue (photo above), which isn’t open all the time but you can call to schedule a visit.
Ferrara Prioritize the Jewish Museum, which has a synagogue, and walk through the Jewish Ghetto, a nice pedestrian area which includes via Mazzini, Via Vignataglia, and Via Vittoria. Check museum opening hours and contact them in advance if you need to schedule a visit. If you have time, consider visiting the Addizione Erculea Jewish cemetery. Ferrara has many fabulous tourist sights so allow at least half a day to walk around and visit the cathedral, the Estense Castle (photo above) or the art museum. If you like cycling, Ferrara is your town.
Other nearby Jewish sights Carpi and Fossoli were the largest sites in Italy for deportation camps. Visit Carpi’s Pio Castle or Fossoli’s public park and national museum, commemorating victims of concentration camps. If you’re visiting castles in the area, you won’t want to miss Soragna’s famous Meli-Lupi castle, across from which sits a synagogue, which today is a museum with a synagogue room.
Add a visit to a kosher winery; taste some kosher parmigiano reggiano cheese; explore the incredible art and castles of the region; spend some time in the city of Parma; and maybe hop on a bike for some easy cycling, and you’ve got yourself a great trip!
Photos from istockphoto.com
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