Private visit to the Museum of Italian Judaism & the Shoah
Visit to the Jewish Cemetery (on request)
JEWISH FERRARA & ITALIAN JUDAISM
Our Jewish Ferrara tour focuses on one of the oldest Jewish Communities in Italy, with a well-preserved old ghetto right in the heart of the historical town, and a new, very important Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah (MEIS), a must if you’re interested in the 2,200 years old Jewish history in the Italian peninsula.
Ferrara, half-way between Venice and Bologna, can be easily reached by train, from Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice. A medieval town that began to flourish at the end of the 12th century under the house of Este, and fully developed during the Renaissance. In 1598 became part of the Papal State and lost importance.
The Golden Age of Ferrara under the Este family transformed the city in a jewel of Renaissance architecture and in a major cultural center, boasting important artists, academics, poets and musicians. In 1995 it was included in the UNESCO world heritage list. The huge Castle and St George Cathedral are not to be missed.
Few steps away from the ‘must-sees’, we enter Jewish Ferrara, an entanglement of old narrow winding streets, where a discerning eye can recognize the rests of the five gatesthat once enclosed the old ghetto, established in 1627, when Ferrara was under the Papal State. Our tour will explore this fascinating area.
You’ll learn from your guide about the different groups of Jews that chose to settle in Ferrara: Italians, Ashkenazi and, after the expulsion from the Iberic peninsula in the 1490s, the Sephardic community, welcomed to Ferrara by Duke Ercole I d’ Este. Jews were active in banking, printing, commerce & medicine.
Among the most prominent figures of Ferrara Judaism we find Abramo Colorni, who degoned the city walls for Ercole II, the great doctor Amato Lusitano, Usque, a celebrated printer, and Isacco Lampronti (18th c.), author to the ‘Pahad Izchak’, a celebrated Talmudic Encyclopedia. But the most famous Jew of Ferrara is
probably Giorgio Bassani (1916-2000) author of ‘The Garden of the Finzi-Continis’, a novel published in 1962, narrating the story of a wealthy Ferrarese Jewish family during the years of fascism and of the anti-Semitic racist laws in Italy. The novel inspired a successful movie with the same name issued in 1970.
A walk through the charming streets of old Ferrara will bring us to the newly inaugurated MEIS, the Museum of Italian Judaism & the Shoah. With the help of all possible high-tech devices, you’ll be brought back through time to find out that Jews have been a constant presence in Italy during the last 2,200 years.
The Museum is still under construction, but already stars, on the second floor, a permanent exhibition: ‘Jews, an Italian History, the First Thousand Years’, centered on the vicissitudes of the Jews in Ancient Rome first, and then in Southern Italy, with a wide selection of objects and reconstructions of great visual impact.
In every room a totem with a lecturer introduces the matter stressing the accent on people and personal stories that are brought back to life through objects and inscriptions. The story continues in the early centuries of the Christian Church, stressing the accent on how the situation evolved for the Jews of Italy.
On the ground floor, from April 12th until September 15th, 2019, a spectacular exhibit: ‘The Renaissance Speaks Hebrew’, centering on the exceptional contribution of the Jews to this unique period in the history of mankind. Jews were printers, philosophers, astrologists, musicians, grammarians at top levels in Italy!
Next important exhibition at the Museum of Italian Judaism in Ferrara will focus on the dark years of the racial laws under Mussolini, issued in 1938. We’ll keep you in touch with all the future programs at the MEIS! If you are interested in more Jewish heritage tours in Italy check our Jewish Heritage section.
Our Jewish Ferrara tour lasts 3 hours. If you wish we can also add an extra hour to visit to the main Jewish Cemetery, a wonderful, silent and evocative garden dotted by simple gravestones, right by the historical wall of Ferrara. A must is a visit to the tomb of Giorgio Bassani, the great writer all the world appreciates.