Italy is home to one of the largest world artistic heritage, for which the twenty-two centuries old Jewish presence, has played an important role. In fact, Judaism is one of the most ancient cultures living in Italy and, over the years, Jewish communities have settled in almost every region of the peninsula, soaking the artistic sensibility of local cultures and generating continuous exchanges.

The oldest Jewish settlements were established in Rome and along the Southern coasts.
Here we find archeological treasures of extraordinary interest: the remains of the synagogue of Ostia Antica (Rome); the mosaics of the synagogue discovered in Bova Marina; the Roman Jewish catacombs; the Venosa catacombs; the still recognizable medieval synagogues in Trani; the miqveh of Syracuse; and the countless streets whose names remind us of the Jewish presence in different cities.

Throughout the 16th century, Jews were expelled from Spanish domains and gradually moved from the south of Italy to the north. It’s the beginning of the “ghetto” era, whose characteristic blocks of buildings are still recognizable today. Nevertheless, the segregation failed to suppress the cultural and artistic fervor of the Jewish communities: the synagogues built in the ghettos, still used today, are secret caskets that hide authentic masterpieces of Baroque architecture, like the wonderful examples of Venetian synagogues and the small ones of the Jewish communities in Piedmont.

With the emancipation of Jews in 1848, new synagogues were built in a more spectacular and monumental form. The grandiose "Israelite temples" of Rome, Florence, Turin, Vercelli, Trieste and other cities, arise at that time, while in other cities the existing synagogues were renewed inside and outside.

Also in modern times, we can remark some very valuable experiences for the Italian synagogal panorama: the Temple of Livorno, inaugurated on 1962, replacing the old one which was destroyed during World War II; the Little Temple of Turin, realized with the Baroque furnishing of the ancient synagogue of Chieri in the suggestive basement of the main synagogue; and the small synagogue of Bologna, built on the ruins of a domus romana, below the big temple.

A hundred cemeteries, big and small, simple and monumental, tell the stories of those who created the Jewish communities over the last centuries and sometimes reflect their involvement in the main society.

The extraordinary heritage of Jewish Italy and its traditions can be found then in the numerous museums and permanent exhibitions of the Jewish communities. Many original documents, teaching aids, magnificent collections of ceremonial furnishings of every age, with a high artistic and historical-documentary value, hand down to us an extremely rich history that still goes on, with rituals, traditions, art and food to be discovered again and again.