Inside The Ghetto

In the tiny bakery known as Boccione within one of the oldest Jewish ghettos in Europe, we queued up for a slice of Jewish pizza. The woman at the till, her hair tucked carefully into a plastic cap, doled out a rectangular piece of dense cake which tasted more like a biscuit as the moreish taste of raisins, almonds and dried fruits came together in a a perfect ménage à trois of sorts. Then the beauty of butter. Eternity is encapsulated often within the briefest of moments.

A few metres from us was the atmospheric restaurant, Nonna Betta, which declares that Anthony Bourdain could deign to eat only within its august interiors in Rome. It is charming inside Nonna Betta. White walls, old-world wrought iron brackets for its equally old-world lamps and extensive murals splashed across the walls that portray what life would have been like in the ghetto before the 1800s. We did not lunch at Nonna Betta yet I could not resist a peep. Instead we meandered through the Jewish quarter, nibbling on rich fruit cake, taking in the quiet alleys where Jews have lived for 2,000 years, history etched into the stones of the buildings with their peeling plasters, facades chipped away by the inexorable passage of time.

Shutters, ribbed and fastened against e’en the honeyed beauty of the sun on the December winter afternoon that we drifted through narrow passages beneath balustrades of marble, our minds lingering upon the kind of stories that those passages must nurse, forgotten tales of people taking flight from persecution. Then there were enclaves that must have been thronged by the poverty-stricken multitudes. The Carmel Temple that you see in the lead photo must have been the repository of dark thoughts festering within repressed souls who in the 16th century had been commanded by the pope to attend ‘compulsory preaches’. How did the adult Jews combat such decrees you think? They plugged their ears with wax, yessir, because who wants to be told what faith to follow. If some dared to fall asleep, they were kicked by watchful papal guards to wake up. Pieces of history that crept up along the walk through The Ghetto.

A piece from a 17th century poem by a certain Giuseppe Berneri captures the misery of life in The Ghetto and it goes like this:

The Ghetto is a place located next to the Tiber
On one side, and to the Fish-market on the other;
It is a rather miserable enclosure of streets,
As it is shady, and also saddening.
It has four large gates, and a small one;
During daytime it is open, to let people out,
But from the evening until morning has broken
It is kept locked by a porter guard.

This marks the end of my series on Rome that was punctuated by that on Florence and my mind is quite ready to exit Italy (do I hear hurrahs at this point?) and enter India where I am currently staying at my parents’ for another week before I fly back home to Adi (Though I cannot promise you that I shall not bring forth photos from Rome and Florence all over again for I have such fond memories tucked into every nook and cranny there).

The walk from the Colosseum to The Ghetto
The poplars of Rome
Avenues of stone pines 

Sights on Aventine Hill
Temple of Diana

Into the Ghetto

Portico d’Ottavia, a portico built by Emperor Augustus in 23BC
The Roman fish market was housed within the portico from the Middle Ages to the late 19th century.
Cobbled streets within the quarter
A Maremma strolls through the Ghetto
Pasticceria Boccione
Jewish pizza on the left
Dilapidated columns and remains of the past inside The Ghetto

Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

59 thoughts on “Inside The Ghetto

  1. Our new cleaner informed me that he hadn’t noticed your profile for some time, but – he’s just a dumb program !
    I can observe that you are out travelling Europe and other places and – of course, you haven’t got the time for surfing whilst travelling. However, it’s starting to be a number of pictures you haven’t seen, which ,of course, gives you something to look forward to 🙂
    Enjoy yourself. The time for rocking chairs comes early enough in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a cleaner? That is interesting 🙂 I shall pop by yours soon enough, Svein, and update myself with your skillfully captured photographs. I am in India right now and there is always someplace to be. I hope I never settle for a rocking chair long enough even when the time comes. But who knows 🙂 Cheers.


      1. India is a facinating country – and very large!
        I’ve been there at least a couple of dozen times, but that’s way back in time. And most geographical names have changed since then.
        Spend your time wisely and always have a camera handy!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I remember our conversations about your experiences in Calcutta. You would find it quite modern and yet its core is old. Some of the bad habits of Calcuttans of throwing things on roadsides still exist which would disgust anyone but I hope to live that in my lifetime I see a change for the better.
        Otherwise I am living through my tastebuds and camera 🙂 Cheers.


  2. You will receive no hurrahs from me, I hate to tell you. I can hear about your Italian adventures any day…Lol. Will be lovely to hear about your stay in India though. So you are still there, how wonderful. Enjoy Arundhati. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I lived in an appartement within Via Beatrice Cenci. Just outside the Ghetto. so many memories. Thank you, Dotty. I have loved this series, of course, your pictures your prose just perfect. I have nothing to add – it has been so evocative, I will. Now close my eyes and dream of a time long ago and far away and pledge to return (after all I did throw my coin in the fountain before I left ?) xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a beautiful quarter, Osyth, and your road is clearly dedicated to a woman who had a colourful history to pep it up. You must have so many memories of the Ghetto and I bet you could write a massive post on it even more evocatively. Mine is but a mere drop.
      I am certain you shall get back to it at some point in time for when the heart has made a home somewhere it tends to return. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The appartment was in her house. It was fabulous and I will write about it some time. Beatrice Cenci proved to be quite an inspiration to me over the years. xx

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an interesting and though provoking post as always! That poem really does convey the sense of the place and how its history must have been very apparent during your trip. I loved reading all of your posts about Italy (and of course, seeing the beautiful photographs) and cannot wait to see what you bring out next 🙂 xox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are quite on point about the brooding feel of the quarter in Venice. I suppose it is that which attracts me when we go anywhere and chance upon Jewish neighbourhoods. One of my favourite Jewish quarters is that in Girona where you wander around mesmerised by the quiet and haunting beauty of it. The houses that the Jews abandoned a long time ago, still remain eerily empty.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I could almost taste that “pizza” slice, which sounded more like dessert than pizza. Your pictures are fabulous, and I loved how you described the history within the walls of this neighborhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard of this pizza, actually, though I always heard it referred to as Pizza Ebraica. I did a quick search, and sure enough, you can find a lot of recipes for it. I’ve always wanted to try it. Reminds me of a more bread-like version of biscotti, which of course, sounds right up my alley.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “The woman at the till, her hair tucked carefully into a plastic cap, doled out a rectangular piece of dense cake which tasted more like a biscuit as the moreish taste of raisins, almonds and dried fruits came together in a a perfect ménage à trois of sorts. Then the beauty of butter. Eternity is encapsulated often within the briefest of moments.” …. !!!! Dippy-Dotty Girl, your writing is amazing! I hope you are working on, or considering, a book or some publication. I know you’ve been a journalist, so of course you have experience with writing, but when I read this post I was just transported to that place you were describing. So wonderful.

    Oh! Back to India! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures there, especially because going back to one’s family home as an adult is always an adventure, I think. haha. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really Theresa and I mean it when I say this that you make my day by giving me the assurance that I should consider writing one. I am in the middle of something hopefully fruitful. Thank you for indulging me by reading. 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course! I’m just continually amazed and inspired by the lovely and apt descriptive passages in your work, and also the poignant and relevant personal musings that accompany them. What a wonderful combination! xx


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