A Private Tour of Jewish Bologna
Tour Participation Requirements
Special Medical Restriction
The Jewish presence in Bologna goes back as far as the 4th century, perhaps further. Over the centuries since, Jewish fortunes (and freedoms) have waxed and waned as rulers and popes changed. By the 14th century, Bologna's Jews shared a generally peaceful coexistence with the larger population, prospering in commerce, medicine, banking, and textiles, maintaining ancient traditions at home and in 11 synagogues, and printing news and sacred texts on Hebrew printing presses.
But in May of 1556, a bull from Pope Paul IV changed all that. Jews were now forced to live in a walled ghetto that was locked at nightfall, with its entrances strictly monitored. By 1569 they were completely expelled from the city, their cemetery confiscated and its tombstones destroyed.
Despite a brief return late in the 1580s, Jews remained excluded from the city until the 1790s. Only after Napoleon's conquering army arrived in Bologna in 1797 were Jews allowed to return. No longer officially confined to their quarter, they started anew and slowly began to resurrect their fractured history here. On this private tour, you'll trace the historic ghetto's layout as it winds through narrow streets in the city's medieval heart.
The main drag is still known as Via De' Giudei, where the bell tower of imposing San Bartolomeo church made sure that Jewish residents would know when Mass was being held. Nearby, and true to its name, the Via dell'Inferno was narrower and sometimes dangerous – but held the important Buratti House, site of one of the ghetto's most prominent synagogues.
On a side street nearby, the Jewish Museum of Bologna contains exhibits that tell the story of Jewish presence in Bologna and Emilia Romagna in moving detail via multiple media.
But in some ways, the story is told even more poignantly at Bocchi Palace, built in 1546 by a writer with humanist beliefs. Across its front base, the only Hebrew inscription on a monumental building in Europe is prominently chiseled. It quotes a verse from the Book of Psalms:
Deliver me from the liars, God! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth.
Out of the ghetto
Theories vary as to who coined the word ghetto. Some say its roots are Venetian (that city had the first recorded Jewish ghetto in 1516); others say it's based on Yiddish, Latin, even German or French. One thing everyone agrees on: The forced separation of Jews within a designated quarter peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries, after a string of Papal edicts laid the groundwork for the idea. By the 19th century, most of Europe's ghettos had disappeared – until the Nazis brought them back again in the 20th, with more in mind than mere separation.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.