Venice’s former Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto di Venezia) is one of the most fascinating and poignant corners of the Floating City. The oldest Jewish ghetto in Italy is home to a number of 16th-century synagogues, the Jewish Museum, a small Holocaust memorial, and kosher restaurants and bakeries.
The origins of the word ghetto can be traced back to Venice: gheto in Venetian means foundry and refers to the island where Venetian Jews were once confined after sunset by Venetian Republic decree. The area is divided into the Ghetto Nuovo (New Ghetto), and the adjacent Ghetto Vecchio (Old Ghetto), though the Ghetto Nuovo is actually the older of the two. Jews from across Europe settled in this neighborhood from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and each synagogue historically catered to a different nationality—German, Italian, Spanish, and Sephardic.
Today Campo del Ghetto Nuovo is still the center of the Venetian Jewish community and offers a glimpse into its history and culture. The ghetto’s Jewish Museum (Museo Ebraico) narrates local Jewish history with a collection of antique gold objects and textiles from ghetto artisans, historic religious texts and artifacts, and personal and household items from former residents. There is also a small Holocaust memorial in the neighborhood to honor the many residents deported during World War II. Book a Jewish ghetto walking tour with a guide to learn more about the ghetto, or pair your visit with a Cannaregio food tour or home cooking experience to explore local cuisine. The museum offers guided tours of the neighborhood’s historic synagogues, or you can book a private tour to view these historic places of worship more intimately.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Jewish ghetto is a must for those interested in Jewish culture and history.
- With its narrow streets and quiet square, the ghetto is one of Venice’s most pleasant historic walking areas—and a lovely spot to snap photographs.
- Jewish ghetto tours are on foot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
- This area is also known for its excellent traditional kosher restaurants, so it’s a good place to stop for lunch or dinner.
How to Get There
The Jewish ghetto is in Venice’s Cannaregio neighborhood. Take the vaporetto (water bus) to the Ponte delle Guglie stop on the Fondamenta di Cannaregio.
When to Get There
As one of the main tourist destinations in Europe, Venice can be very crowded most of the year. To avoid the thickest throngs, visit in early spring or late fall. The December Hanukkah festivities in the historic ghetto, with music and celebrations with the traditional lighting of the menorah, make for a particularly beautiful time to visit.
Venice’s Historic Synagogues
The ghetto has five historic synagogues: the Schola Tedesca for the German community; the Schola Spagnola and the Schola Italiana for the Spanish and Italian communities, respectively; the Schola Levantina for the Sephardic community; and the Schola Canton, a private synagogue probably built by French emigrés.