The Jewish presence in Tuscany dates back, with certainty, to the XII century. Artistic and historical testimonies of the Jewish culture and civilization stretch throughout the Tuscan territory in the form of synagogues, ritual places of life and religious and every day life objects, as well as music, dance and culinary traditions. It is possible to witness their presence in the cities of Florence, Livorno, Pisa, Siena—all of which have conserved traces of the historic ‘Jewish ghettos’ that still thrive today as important community places of worship. Also, the Jewish communities living in the towns of Sovrana, Sorano, Pitigliano and others, from the past and the present, have left important memorials of their presence. In Pitigliano, which remains the centre of a flourishing community, visitors can visit the Jewish Ghetto, bakeries, the recently renovated Synagogue and the old cemetery.
In Pisa, the synagogue on Via Palestro, has been the focal point of the Jewish community since the late XVI century. The modern day cemetery, near the republican walls close to the Piazza del Duomo, is the fourth Jewish cemetery in the surrounding area. Look out for the interesting gravestones with inscriptions located on the walls and several noteworthy tombs. The Jewish presence in Viareggio dates back to the early XX century and an oratory on Via degli Oleandri serves the resident Jewish community and the many tourists sojourning in the area. There is still a synagogue in Monte San Savino. Traces of the Jewish presence in the area include the ‘Throne of Rabbi’ near the Cristian cemetery. Here you will see numerous tombs and gravestones.
Information and Helpful Hints:
The latest tour guide inaugurated by the Tuscan Region and the Italian Touring Club is called ‘Luoghi ebraici di Toscana - Jewish Tours in Tuscany’. The guidebook, written in both Italian and English, is not for sale but can be found at the Apt Toscana and at the Culture Superintendent Office of the Tuscan Region. Not many people know that Livorno is the home of one of the most important Jewish communities in Tuscany and the only one to have been confined to a ‘ghetto’. In the 1800s, the majority of books printed in the Mediterranean basin were printed in Livorno, and the typesetters, among which are those of Sadun and Belforte, were owned by Jewish families.
The synagogue of Pisa
Free guided tours on occasion of the first Sunday in September, European Day of Jewish Culture. For information, contact the Jewish Community of Pisa. The synagogue is near the Verdi Theatre.
The synagogue of via Palestro, used non stop for 400 years, is an important monument for its original 17th century layout, for the restoration work carried out in the nineteenth century by the architect Marco Treves, one of the most important synagogue architects, as well as for its internal furnishing. It can be considered one of the most interesting examples of Italian Jewish religious architecture, a testimony of the history and culture of an important Community, that of Pisa, whose first archive-documentary evidence dates back to the 15th century.