Tour of the Ghetto Vecchio - the Jewish Ghetto

Jews have lived in Venice since the Middle Ages. Many came as refugees while the Inquisition took place. The Venetian Republic created Europe's first Jewish ghetto. It was overcrowded, and the Jews were not permitted to leave the gates after dark. They were also heavily taxed. Despite the hardships, the community thrived.

The Ghetto Vecchio was visited by everyone in Venice for its excellent shops and markets, as the Jews dominated most of the foreign trade in the city. Jewish doctors, lawyers, scholars and merchants became well-respected, wealthy and influential in Venice and gained prominent positions in the Venetian community. The Ghetto had synagogues and prestigious schools in addition to a theater, a music conservatory and intellectual literary salons.

When you visit the Old Ghetto, be sure to stop at Gam Gam, the one Kosher restaurant open to the public. Its menu is both Israeli and Italian, the food is excellent, and the Hasidic staff speaks English.

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