Everybody knows that Italy is an unmatched destination for Christian tourists. You may be surprised that this lovely country is also a don’t-miss destination for tourists seeking a Jewish experience. While Christian edifices are found virtually everywhere in Italy, synagogues and other Jewish buildings are not so numerous. You’ll need to find them. While you could locate these sights on your own, we suggest taking a guided tour. Advantages of a professionally organized tour include an unmatched learning experience, spending time with people who share your interests, and access to hotels and Kosher food without the leg work (how’s your Italian?). Let me add another possibly life-saving advantage, getting from place to place in air-conditioned buses instead of dealing with Italian roads and drivers on your own.
You might want to start your Jewish tour in Rome. Jews have been living there for over two thousand years. Did you know that the Maccabees sought an alliance with the Roman Senate against the Syrian Greeks who desecrated Jerusalem's Temple? Make sure to visit the Jewish Ghetto, which hosts the Great Synagogue and a Jewish Museum. Judaism remains active in the Eternal City as evidenced by a rabbinical college and several excellent Kosher restaurants. The medieval Tuscan city of Siena hosts a synagogue dating from the mid-1800s. Tuscany’s capital, Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, also boasts a Great Synagogue and a Jewish Museum. You may want to compare them with their Roman counterparts.
The Ghetto originated in Venice. This area still maintains a Jewish presence. A few years ago friends of ours held a Jewish Destination Wedding in Venice; the groom had been a Yeshiva student in this unique city. Venice’s Jewish Cemetery is said to be the second oldest outside of Israel. One tombstone dates back to 1386. The nearby city of Padua is home to Italy’s second oldest university, once headquarters for Dante, Petrarch, and Galileo. Its Jewish cemetery hosts the gravesites of Abravenel and Maharam of Padua.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.