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Between the Tiber Island and Largo Argentina you can discover an area that isn’t so well known by tourists: the Roman Ghetto. It’s one of the oldest Jewish Ghettoes in the whole world. It was established in 1555 in the Rione Sant’Angelo, with the main aim to segregate more than 2,000 Jews in Rome. Indeed the quarter was sorrounded by a great wall whose gates were locked at night. Pope Paul IV decided to create this kind of “enclosure” in this specific area since it was continually threatened by the different floodings from the Tiber River. Jewish people had a difficult life in the past, living in terrible hygienic conditions. They couldn’t own any property, they were obligated to take part in Christian festivities and they were allowed to work only at specific jobs, being at the same time humiliated by Christians for their religious creed . The Kingdom of Italy brought to the end of the Papal State in 1870 and new buildings and an official Synagogue were erected in the place where the wall was demolished. Although the Ghetto ceased to exist, this district became the cruelest scene of the Nazi raid that took place in in Rome on October 16,1943.
The Turtle Fountain is one of the most famous monuments in this district. It is situated in Piazza Mattei and it was built in 16th century by Giacomo della Porta, an architect who made lots of fountains and churches in Rome. The legend claims that the fountain was built in a single night, after being commissioned by the Duke Mattei who wanted to surprise his lover’s father to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The girl’s father accepted the proposal and the nobleman made the window overlooking the fountain close up to remember this event.
The Porticus Octaviae is another important landmark in this area. After its building in 27 BF, it was dedicated by the Emperor Augustus to his sister Octavia. During the Ancient Rome the portico housed the temples of Jupiter and Juno, next to the Theater of Marcellus, a library and a schola but in the medieval period it changed its earlier and noble aims. Indeed it was used as a fish market until the end of 19th century and this other aim is recalled in the name of the near church Sant’Angelo in Pescheria (“the Holy Angel in the Fish Market”) .
So, what are you waiting for? Be ready to get lost in the best Roman alleys.