On the first day of my trip to Rome, I had the chance to meet Esther and explore the oldest area of the city. It was a wonderful experience with not only amazing history but also tasty local food.
The tour starts at Area Sacra, an easy-to-find starting point with many buses and metro stations nearby. It is located in the ancient Campus Martius, which has its origins in the Republican epoch starting from the 4th century BC. Following Esther, we walked through a hidden lane and arrived at the Jewish Quarter, where we found the marvellous Tortoise Fountain in a little square in front of Palazzo Mattei and Palazzo Costaguti.
Rome has Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish community and occupies a unique place in the history of the Diaspora. Jewish life in Rome was not easy – the walls of the ghetto separated Jews from the rest of society. They had no property rights, were only allowed to trade second-hand objects, and could not employ Christian staff. Outside the ghetto they had to wear the ‘Jewish sign’ to be easily recognized: men had to wear a yellow patch on their hats, women wore a yellow hankerchief (usually worn by prostitutes).
After learning about the fascinating history of the Jews in Rome, Esther and I crossed the first stone bridge in the city and arrived on Tiber Island. The Isola Tiberina has always been a mysterious place, shrouded in legend, surrounded by the river and linked inseparably to the origins of Rome. It was supposed to have arisen over an ancient ship, whose shape it still maintains. It’s unusual shape was further accentuated by the Romans, who enhanced the legend by building a stone prow and stern on it, giving it the shape of a warship, with the obelisk in the centre of the island like a ship’s mast!
At the end of the tour, we arrived at Trastevere. It is a picturesque medieval area located on the west bank of the Tiber. The area escaped the grand developments which changed the face of central Rome, and is a charming place to wander, eat and relax. Esther took me to a wonderful local food place and ordered some fantastic food for me to try. It was the perfect way to end the tour and rest our legs.
Over the course of two hours, we were able to see so many different places that showcase Italy’s rich heritage and culture in a very small corner of an amazing country. I ate where locals dined and travelled how locals travel. It was a huge experience crammed into a short period. I highly recommend this tour to anyone wanting to see Rome.