Pisa

The Jewish community of Pisa is most probably the oldest in Tuscany, and one of the oldest in Italy, having settled down in the city in the year 850 AD. Interesting is the description given in the XIII century of the city and its local Jewish population by the famous Spanish Jewish explorer and geographer Beniamino de Tudela.

Throughout the centuries Pisa increased its population as it proved quite a safe haven for many Jews expelled from other areas of Italy and Europe. In fact, whereas in cities like Florence and Siena, both under the Medici’s rule, Jews had been closed in ghettos, Pisa and Leghorn never had a ghetto. Actually they encouraged Jews expelled from other areas, such as those expelled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497, to settle in their territories.

The tour will start from the main attraction in Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli, where, amongst the monuments, stands the iconic leaning tower. Interestingly enough, the Jewish cemetery is located just outside the walls surrounding Piazza dei Miracoli.

From here we will proceed to downtown Pisa in the area where the Jewish population used to live. Here we will be visiting the main synagogue standing in the same place where the very first synagogue was built when the first Jews settled down in Pisa around the year 850 AD. The present day lay out, decor and embellishments are from 1860-1865, when the synagogue was renovated following the Reunification of Italy with the consequent emancipation of the Jewish population and the desire for styles that this brought along.  Peculiar the fact that, like in many other synagogues redone throughout Italy in this period, the layout of the space and the arrangement of the furniture followed those of the churches.  We will then pass by the building that used to host another synagogue established here in the XV century and proceed to Casa Pardo Roquez, named after Abramo Giuseppe Pardo Roquez, President of the local Jewish community in the early years of the XX century and known for his philanthropic activities in favour of all of Pisa’s population. Here in 1944 German soldiers slaughtered  him,  his whole family and several neighbours.

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