Rome’s other “Jewish ghetto”

Rome boasts the oldest continuous Jewish population outside the mid-east, centered around the original “Ghetto”* on the banks of the Tiber river. What is less well-known to visitors is that there is a second, less ancient Jewish area in Rome. Just outside the center of the city is Piazza Bologna, which boasts a thriving Jewish community: the kind of place where kosher groceries can be bought on most blocks, and a huge menorah is lit in the piazza every Hanukkah.

Menorah at Piazza Bologna, Rome, celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hannukah
Menorah in Piazza Bologna, Rome, celebrating the holiday of Hannukah

The Jewish identity of the Piazza Bologna neighborhood is a more modern part of the diaspora, its origins lying in the persecution and expulsion of Jews from Libya in the late 1960s. Most were evacuated and relocated by the Italian navy, and many of those evacuees found themselves settling around Piazza Bologna. Though Sephardi-Maghrebi is the dominant type of Judaism here, the many Jewish amenities in the area have attracted other denominations too. The area is also home to Rome’s tiny Hassidic community, for example.

Piazza Bologna (Bologna station on Metro Line B), also known as Nomentano, is only three Metro stops from the absolute center of the city at Termini Station, five stops from the Colosseum, and just 45 minutes on foot from the Trevi Fountain. The area that surrounds the piazza is a buzzing quartiere of Rome in its own right with a famously raucous night-life, and is crammed with bars, restaurants, supermarkets – many Jewish-owned – as well as temples, kosher grocery stores, and eateries, a Chabad House, and a mikvah.

Because of its fast and convenient connections to the city center, Piazza Bologna makes a convenient and practical alternative base for visitors to Rome who want to keep kosher and/or observant, but who also want to avoid the concentrated, overpriced and touristy environment of the original Jewish Ghetto.

The discovery of an ancient Jewish catacomb beneath the nearby park of Villa Torlonia does in fact attest to a much older connection to Judaism – one that will be further consolidated with the creation of a future Museo della Shoah (Holocaust Museum) in that same park – but in fact though sharing many connections with the older ghetto, Piazza Bologna’s Jewish community has its own unique identity. Also of note in the area are two sets of Stolperstein, brass cobblestones embedded in the sidewalk that mark the names, ages, and fate of individuals who were deported to concentration camps or massacred near Rome during the Second World War (indicated on the map below).

Below we present a short directory of Jewish amenities in the area. If you would like to point out other Jewish businesses nearby, or would like your own business listed here, please email info@romevacationtips.com.

Kosher food and drink

Ba’ Ghetto
Via Livorno 10
Traditional Jewish-Roman dishes in this local branch of this famous Ghetto eatery.

Flour Farina e Cucina
Via Padova 78
Delightful pastries, coffee, and snacks.

Fonzie the Burger’s House
Via Catanzaro 33
Hearty American-style burger house – have your burger any way you want it, kosher style.

Little Tripoli
Via Polesine, 16/18
Memories of north-African Jewish cuisine.

Kosher groceries and meat

Carrefour
Viale XXI Aprile, 23
This French-owned 24-hour supermarket has a kosher section.

Kosher Delight
Via Giacomo Boni, 18
Supermarket with fresh meats and many products imported from Israel.

Il Macellaio
Via Lorenzo il Magnifico, 103
Traditional Italian cuts of meat, all kosher.

Da Zakino
Via Cremona 48
Libyan-run kosher deli with canned and fresh goods from Libya, other parts of north Africa, and Israel.

Synagogues

Centro Beth-el
Via Padova, 92

Tempio Beth Shmuel (Sephardi)
בית כנסת טריפוליטאי
Via Garfagnana 4

Cultural centers

Chabad Piazza Bologna
First floor, Viale di Villa Massimo, 39

Kollel Roma
Via Giuseppe Marchi 4

Mikvah Eliahu Fadlun
Via Famiano Nardini, 15


*The first Jewish community of Rome, which arrived in earnest in Rome following the Sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE was confined by the papacy to the original “Ghetto” between the 16th to 19th centuries; it nevertheless flourished and consolidated despite such mistreatment, and now boasts a proud and unique culture that can be experienced in the streets and alleyways of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. The word “ghetto” is originally derived from borghetto, the Italian for small village – and “Ghetto” is a name that is still proudly used by Rome’s Jewish community, despite possible negative connotations elsewhere.

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Photo credit: AFP

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