Jewish history is of fundamental importance for Italian cultural heritage, and nearly every city in Italy can trace back their Jewish communities. Spend 9 days exploring the synagogues, ghettos, old cemeteries, and more to explore this rich culture. See the San Sabba concentration camp in Trieste, explore Venice's medieval ghetto and view ancient Hebrew texts in Bologna. 

Highlights

  • Visit the ancient Trieste ghetto & the city's beautiful synagogue
  • Spend a half day discovering Jewish traditions in the small town of Conegliano
  • Discover Venice's Jewish heritage, visit modern-day neighborhoods & synagogues
  • Enjoy a private Torah lecture from a leading expert on Judaic studies
  • Explore the Jewish history of Modena, Parma, and Bologna

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Venice, Transfer to Trieste Trieste
Day 2 Full Guided Day in Trieste - Ghetto & Synagogue Trieste
Day 3 Guided San Sabba Concentration Camp, Gorizia & Cividale Trieste
Day 4 Transfer to Venice, Morning in Conegliano Venice
Day 5 Venice's Old Jewish Ghetto & Lido Cemetery Venice
Day 6 Tour of Padua & Ferrara, Transfer to Bologna Bologna
Day 7 Bologna Private Torah Lecture Bologna
Day 8 Day Trip to Modena & Parma from Bologna Bologna
Day 9 Goodbye Italy!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Venice, Transfer to Trieste

Seafront promenade
Seafront promenade

Welcome to Venice! Arrive at Venice Airport, then transfer to your hotel in Trieste. You'll be met by your tour representative who will help you check in and answer any questions you have about the week ahead.

Trieste is an ancient city whose recorded habitation dates back to the second millennium BCE. The original name, Tergeste, comes from the Venetic word meaning 'market'. Later, Trieste became part of the Roman republic in 177 BC during the Second Istrian War. For the next 2,000 years, the city was largely prosperous and became a major trading hub until 1918 when Italy took control of the city. 

During this time Trieste was a major cosmopolitan center for culture and literature in the Austrian Riviera and was frequented by artists and philosophers such as James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Sigmund Freud, Zofka Kveder, and Dragotin Kette. The 20th century brought unrest into the city, as the Italian lower class sought to wrest power from the middle-class Slovenes. As a result, many ethnic Germans and Slovenes left Triste, while ethnic Italians from newly-formed Yugoslavia relocated to Trieste. Around the time of World War II, Trieste's large Jewish population (Italy's third-largest at the time), as well as many Slavs and anti-fascist Italians were systematically exterminated, many at the Risiera—the only concentration camp built on Italian soil. 

Today the city is a thriving economic and cultural hub, primarily as a coffee shipping hub for the rest of Italy (Trieste supplies more than 40% of Italy's coffee). Grand cafès, wide avenues, beautiful tree-lined parks, and a vibrant cultural scene make it a beautiful travel destination.

In the afternoon, head out for a leisurely stroll along the waterfront to explore the city sights on your own, then stop by a cafe for a relaxed meal. 

Day 2: Full Guided Day in Trieste - Ghetto & Synagogue

Triste synagogue
Triste synagogue

Enjoy a relaxing breakfast at the hotel, then head out for a full day of exploring the ancient port city with your tour guide. Start with the former Ghetto, the Synagogue, and the Jewish Museum.

The city's Jewish community is first commemorated in the 13th century, with a small but distinct population existing until the 17th century when the Ghetto was first constructed. Jews were forced to live inside the Ghetto for the next 100 years, until 1784, when the compulsory Ghetto law was lifted. Following that, the Jewish population slowly grew in number and prominence in the city, contributing in the areas of finance, literature, and political office. 

The Synagogue was built between 1908 and 1912 and served the growing Jewish population in the city until the start of the Fascist regime and the implementation of race laws by the Nazis. It was devastated by fascist groups and later used as a storehouse for art and precious books seized from Jewish homes. After the end of the war it returned almost immediately back to operation, and today it is recognized as one of Europe's leading places of worship for the Jewish community.   

Visit the Carlo and Vera Wagner Jewish Museum, housed in a historical building, to learn about the history of the Jewish community. The building was first intended as a Jewish hospital, used as a primary school and later as a shelter for Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, as well as a Polish Ashkenazi oratory. 

Enjoy a leisurely lunch, then continue your tour to see the Miramare Castle, which sits directly on the seafront and is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and botanic gardens. Stroll through the park to see the different native and exotic plant species and enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding sea from the castle's perch high on the cliff. 

Return to the hotel in the evening.

Day 3: Guided San Sabba Concentration Camp, Gorizia & Cividale

Old cobbled streets in  Cividale del Friuli
Old cobbled streets in Cividale del Friuli

Start the morning with a relaxing breakfast, then hit the road for another full day. Meet with your tour guide, then head to the Risiera of San Sabba, Italy's only concentration camp. Today it is a civic museum of memory. For the Jews of Trieste and Italy, the Risiera was generally a temporary nightmare while they awaited their final deportation to deadly Auschwitz or other concentration camps. 

After a short drive, continue your tour with a visit to Gorizia. Until 1943, the town was home to a small but significant Jewish population. Most of the Jewish citizens were, however, murdered during the Holocaust. These days an old cemetery and the ancient ghetto are the only remnants of the city's community. Tour the Via Ascoli, the ghetto's main street, to see the decorative wrought-iron railings and balconies, evidence of the community's former prosperity. 

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, then continue your tour to your next destination—Cividale, a small medieval city on the Natisone River. The city's Jewish presence is documented between the 12th and 17th centuries, and today it lives on through the popularity of kosher spirits. Enjoy a sampling of the famous drink and learn about the regional culture. 

Afterward enjoy a guided tour of the city center and of the National Archaeological Museum, which preserves the relics of the Longobard Period, as well as gravestones from the ancient Jewish cemetery. 

Return to your hotel in Trieste in the evening.

Day 4: Transfer to Venice, Morning in Conegliano

Road to the Canegliano castle
Road to the Canegliano castle

In the morning, transfer to Venice, stopping in Conegliano on the way for a self-guided exploration. The Jewish community in the town of Conegliano was small in ancient times but played a vital role in the development of the town's economy and arts. Tour the medieval village and town center, then stop by to sample and purchase a bottle of the famous Prosecco wine, famous all over the world. 

The Jewish community in Conegliano has been active since the 16th century, and the synagogue contains a beautiful Holy Ark with fine golden carved wooden ornamentation. 

Pause for a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, then continue to Venice. Upon arrival at the Piazzale Roma, you'll be greeted by your tour representative, then transfer to your hotel via a private luxury boat. 

Venice in northern Italy is famous for both industry and tourism. With nicknames like "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", and "The Floating City", it's clear that the city's myriad canals are its main draw. Stretching across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea, the city has long been a commercial and cultural hub thanks to its strategic placement. Silk, grains, spices, and art were traded through the Middle Ages, making Venice very wealthy. 

The city is also famous for its many beautiful historic attractions, such as the Piazza San Marco and San Marco Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the ornate Doge's Palace. The Lido de Venezia is a popular luxury destination that attracts actors, critics, and other cinema industry celebrities.  

Depending on when you arrive, a great introduction to the city is to take a romantic cruise down Venice's canals on a historic gondola to see stunning architecture and narrow waterways. This is not a guided tour but rather a relaxing cruise that allows you to take in the amazing city from the water.

Day 5: Venice's Old Jewish Ghetto & Lido Cemetery

Sign indicating where the former ghetto stood
Sign indicating where the former ghetto stood

Spend the day exploring the Jewish community's heritage and history in Venice on a guided walking tour. Start the tour at the Sotoportego del Ghetto Vecchio, a former gate that marked the entrance to the medieval Jewish Ghetto, which was the only allowed district for Jews in the city. 

From here continue to visit the synagogues: the Great German Schola, the Canton Schola, the Italian Schola, the Levantine Schola, and the Spanish Schola. Each synagogue has a particular personality, and each one has its own history through the centuries and after the Holocaust. 

From here continue your visit in the Jewish Museum of Venice, situated in the Campo of the Ghetto Novo, between two of Venice's most ancient synagogues. The museum, which was founded in 1953 following the war, is small but contains a wealth of information and artifacts about the Jewish community in Venice. 

Your tour ends with a visit to the local shops to try the local food. Learn about how Jewish cuisine has influenced the modern-day Venetian gastronomy, then enjoy a lunch of delicious kosher specialties. 

After lunch transfer to the island of Lido on a private luxury boat, where your visit continues to the Jewish Cemetery. This cemetery is a jewel of medieval art and is one of Europe's oldest preserved cemeteries. 

After your visit, transfer back to your hotel.

Day 6: Tour of Padua & Ferrara, Transfer to Bologna

Loggia in the Piazza delle Erbe, Padua
Loggia in the Piazza delle Erbe, Padua

Leave the lagoon city behind you this morning and transfer to Padua for a guided city tour. Start in the historic Ghetto, located in the heart of the city by the Piazza delle Erbe. See the 12th-century Palazzo della Ragione, and the Via San Martino and Solferino—the medieval city's main arteries. At the junction with Via Roma stop to see the first of four large doors, above each of which is marble plaque with a carved Lion of San Marco, the symbol of Venice. 

Continue to your stop of the day, the city of Ferrara. Stop here for a leisurely lunch on your own before meeting up with your guide to visit the city's ancient Jewish district. The area extends a few blocks from the Cathedral and Market Square, a lively neighborhood of relative economic prosperity. Jewish people first settled in the city in the 13th century and have contributed greatly to Ferrara's economy and culture over the centuries. 

Walk along the Renaissance walls to see the richly decorated Jewish cemetery, full of symbols and ornaments that illustrate Jewish life in the city. 

Your visit in Ferrara ends with a stop at the MEIS, the New National Museum of Italian Judaism and Shoah. Afterward, transfer to your hotel in Bologna.

Day 7: Bologna Private Torah Lecture

Ancient Hebrew text
Ancient Hebrew text

Meet your guide in the morning for a full day in the city. Spend the morning on a unique experience—a private and exclusive lecture with one of the foremost experts of Jewish studies in Italy. He re-discovered the world's oldest known complete Torah scroll, and his research and expertise are unparalleled in the area. You'll be treated to a passionate presentation on the topic, then get a chance to see the precious historical manuscript up close. 

After a leisurely lunch, continue your visit to the recently restored Jewish Ghetto. One of the doors to the neighborhood is still visible between the two city towers: Torre degli Asinelli and Torre della Garsenda. Here, you'll find craft shops with Jewish prints and other hints of new life in the old district. 

Afterward, visit the Jewish cemetery, which dates back to the second half of the 19th century. The cemetery's original 16th-century tombstones can be found in the city's Museo Civico Medievale (Medieval Civic Museum). 

At the end of the day, transfer back to your hotel.

Day 8: Day Trip to Modena & Parma from Bologna

Modena synagogue, located in the heart of the city
Modena synagogue, located in the heart of the city

Today you will explore the cities of Modena and Parma on a full day tour. Start with a morning pick-up, then transfer to Modena, where a private local guide will meet you and introduce you to the city. Although Modena's Jewish ghetto was almost completely transformed in 1903, traces of it remain if you keep your eyes open. Walk through this district and look for the original hinges to one of the four gates which completely closed off the neighborhood, and the original medieval structure of the low houses on some of the older streets. 

From here transfer to the beautiful city of Parma and enjoy a relaxing lunch on your own time. Afterward, meet with a local guide to explore the local Jewish culture. Start at the synagogue, which opened in 1866 when Jews returned to Parma after a two-century absence. 

From here continue to the Biblioteca Palatina, home to the largest collection of Hebrew manuscripts in Italy (and 2nd-largest in the world after the Bodleian Library in Oxford). The collection housed at the library was acquired by the Duchess Maria Luigia, who then donated it. 

Return to your hotel in Bologna in the evening.

Day 9: Goodbye Italy!

Little details of life in Rome
Little details of life in Rome

Time to say goodbye to the country of love! After one last cappuccino over breakfast, head to the airport for your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Jewish Heritage in Northern Italy - 9 Days
Map of Jewish Heritage in Northern Italy - 9 Days