Italy Is Still Awesome: Ghettos and Gondolas

On our last day in Venice, we checked out Cannareggio, and the Jewish quarter, which occupies a few square blocks in that district.

Venice had always had a comparatively large Jewish population, and in 1516, the Republic felt compelled to move them all into one area so they could keep an eye on them. Gates were locked at night, and guards patrolled the canals around the quarters after curfew. However, Jews living within the ghetto were guaranteed freedom to practice their religion.

This was the first “ghetto,” probably drawing its name from a Venetian word, gheto, that referred to the slag from a foundry located on the site at one time. Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” was set in this ghetto, which was inhabited by five different sects of Jews: German/Swiss, Italian, Levantine, Spanish, and Sephardic, each with its own synagogue.

By 1650, the tiny patch of of land held about 4,000 inhabitants in crowded buildings with synagogues located in the attics so nothing would come between them and the sky.

In 1797, Napoleon ended the segregation of Jews, and they spread out into the rest of the city.

In 1943, Nazis decimated the Jewish population of Venice as they did elsewhere, and today about 500 Jews live in all of Venice. Some Orthodox Jews still live in the ghetto.

I recently discovered that I have some Venetian (Spanish) Jewish ancestry myself, and so wanted to at least see the area. We didn’t have the opportunity to do any formal tours, but I enjoyed walking around. The next time we visit Venice (because there will be a next time!) I can hopefully set up a real tour.

In the afternoon, we bought vaporetto tickets and visited the islands of San Giorgio and Giudecca. I discovered that I get a bit seasick on vaporettos 🙂 But it was still fun to get a different perspective on the city, and the islands are pleasantly serene.

One of the gates to the Jewish ghetto.  These were locked and guarded after curfew.
One of the gates to the Jewish ghetto. These were locked and guarded after curfew.
In the ghetto.
In the ghetto.
In the ghetto (just liked the colors, they aren't Jewish jeans or anything...)
In the ghetto (just liked the colors, they aren’t Jewish jeans or anything…)
Memorial to ghetto inhabitants that were killed in the Holocaust.
Memorial to ghetto inhabitants that were killed in the Holocaust.
Sign for a shop selling Jewish religious items.
Sign for a shop selling Jewish religious items.
Boat in the ghetto.
Boat in the ghetto.
I believe this is the Jewish old folks' home.
I believe this is the Jewish old folks’ home.
Canal in Cannareggio.
Canal in Cannareggio.
Girl in a red dress.
Girl in a red dress.
Teeny street.
Teeny street.
Seafood!
Seafood!
I have a thing for wrought iron.
I have a thing for wrought iron.
In Cannareggio.
In Cannareggio.
In Cannareggio.
In Cannareggio.
In Cannareggio.
In Cannareggio.
In Cannareggio.  This building is not in great shape.
In Cannareggio. This building is not in great shape.
Purses!
Purses!
Gondolier taking a texting break.
Gondolier taking a texting break.
A vaporetto.  They get pretty crowded.
A vaporetto. They get pretty crowded.
From the vaporetto.
From the vaporetto.
From the vaporetto along the Grand Canal.
From the vaporetto along the Grand Canal.
Along the Grand Canal.
Along the Grand Canal.
View from the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore.
View from the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore.
From the bell tower.
From the bell tower.
An absolutely huge cruise ship being towed down the canal.
An absolutely huge cruise ship being towed down the canal.
Pretty courtyard.
Pretty courtyard.
The Venetian flag.
The Venetian flag.
Couldn't resist.
Couldn’t resist.

 

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