One place often overlooked in Rome is the Jewish Ghetto. It is a beautiful part of town, full of heartbreaking history, delicious food, and a great mix of high- and low-end style. It is only a short walk from Campo dei Fiori, and well worth the walk.
What is the Jewish Ghetto?
This was where the Jews were annexed for several hundred years. They lived in harsh conditions, within very narrow streets, and had strict rules placed upon them.
A gate was constructed around the Jewish Ghetto, forcing the inhabitants to build vertically, creating a very tight, crowded atmosphere. Like in many other parts of Rome, there are some ancient ruins within the Ghetto. The ruins are very crowded here, yet that makes them look even more beautiful somehow. We learned that one particularly beautiful ruin was the ancient theater. Perched on top were apartments, where the uber-wealthy lived — just another example of that vertical lifestyle. It’s touching to see.
From the hardship, the Jews had to be very creative when it came to cooking. As a result, the food there is out of this world.
Boccione is this tiny, nondescript bakery on the corner of the main drag of the Jewish Ghetto that has been there for generations. It is a place not to be missed. Working behind the counter are some of the most efficient ladies who wrap up the delicacies for you. We had heard about these cookie bars that are unexpectedly called called pizza, that were so very interesting, and worth popping in for. The recipe calls for many odds-and-ends, including nuts and dried fruits. The end result is a cookie-like bar that isn’t too sweet, making them almost feel like a good-tasting energy bar. They may look burned, but that’s exactly the best way to have them. They were so good, we went back for seconds!
Sora Margherita was highly recommended by our food tour guide. It was a delightful experience, with four of us crammed into a tiny table in the corner for lunch. We shared many laughs and delicious dishes, and found the place to be a riot. Word on the street is that Bill Clinton came here and loved it, too. Our waitress seemed to be in a huff about everything, but it just added to the hilarity of the experience. The food was so delicious that the waitress wouldn’t allow us to leave until every plate was practically licked clean. When she was clearing plates and saw that we had a few bites of pasta remaining, she pointed to Paul, and said, “You. Finish.” There really was no arguing with her. Order the fried artichokes, balsamic eggplant, and the pasta ragu. You will not leave hungry.
Things to do
The Synagogue of Rome was a place that we simply ran out of time to visit. It seemed that there were guided tours offered almost hourly, and if the outside is any indication, the inside must be breathtaking. This is certainly on our list of things to do the next time we visit Rome.
The winding streets of the Ghetto were beautiful to wander along. Much quieter than other parts of Rome, it’s a nice reprieve from the bustle found elsewhere. One particularly nice area is a small square called Piazza Mattei, where a tiny fountain can be found: Fontana delle Tartarughe (The Turtle Fountain). At the bottom are dolphins, and at the top are turtles. In the middle are boys standing atop the dolphins (perhaps trying to break the tails of the quick-moving dolphins) and reaching for the turtles, said to represent the words of Augustus: “make haste slowly”.
We can’t believe we missed out on this area of Rome on all our previous trips. If you’re looking for more of a little-known part of town, this is it.