Strada nuova (New Street) is the longest street in Venice, a commercial area, full of shops, in the Cannaregio district, connecting the railway station (Santa Lucia) to a very popular location. After crossing Ponte delle Guglie, we turn on the left and enter into the Ghetto.
It was Venice that invented the concept of the ghetto, until 1390 the Jews’ Venetian enclave was near a foundry or geto. When the foundry was moved to the Arsenale, the name was given to this remote area, re-defined in 1516 as the “new” ghetto.
Throughout the centuries Venice’s attitude to Jews remained ambiguous. The Senate voted to create the world’s first ghetto, Jews were given only ten days to repair to the chosen place. Its outer walls and houses were windowless and its canal, crossed by two bridges, was closed at night and guarded by four Christian soldiers, paid for by a tax levied on the Jews. Abolished by Napoleon in 1797, it was reintroduced by the Austrians and finally disappeared after the Italian unification (1861).
Today the place remains an important cultural centre for the Jewish community. The Jewish Museum of Venice is located in the Campo of the Ghetto Novo, between the two most ancient Venetian synagogues. The campo preserves its distinguishing features.
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