by Melinda Gallo

A guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue

I had been looking forward to this day for a long time. I signed up to go on a guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue in Florence, organized by The Florentine. After living in Florence for many years, I had never visited the sinagoga (synagogue) before. I had made plans a few times to go with a couple of different friends, but unfortunately it never happened. On my way to the sinagoga this afternoon, I walked past Santa Croce and looked up at the Star of David on the facciata (fašade) of the chiesa (church). I hadn't known the relationship between that symbol and the sinagoga. Little did I know that during the guided tour, I'd find out.

Living in Florence :: A guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue

As soon as I arrived, I bumped into a few people I knew outside the sinagoga. We stood in the courtyard in front of the sinagoga while the cicerone (tour guide) talked to us about the history of the sinagoga. We were surrounded by pomegranate trees with large fruits still hanging on the trees. We weren't allowed to take any foto (photos) on the grounds of the sinagoga, so I could only take foto outside the metal gates.

We were told that a Jewish architect, Marco Treves, had to work with two other Italian architects to build the sinagoga in 1874. The cicerone explained that Marco Treves added the Star of David on Santa Croce to compensate for the lack of trust the Italian architects showed the Jewish architect when he was building the sinagoga.

We were led inside the dimly lit sinagoga and stood around the wooden benches where the people come to pray together. The cicerone told us before we entered that there weren't any statues inside. He explained a lot about the Jewish faith that I found quite interesting. I was surprised to find out that the Jewish ghetto in Florence was a walled area in Piazza Repubblica that they used to lock up at night.

After the guided tour, we went next door to Ruth's for a delicious aperitivo.

I've seen the sinagoga more often from a distance and can easily spot its green cupola (dome) poking out of the terra cotta rooftops, so I was happy to have finally visited the sinagoga and to have learned more about the Jewish faith and the history of the Jews in Florence.

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