Culturally, historically and spiritually, Italian Jewry is unique —considered neither Sephardi nor Ashkenazi. The Jews of Italy, who have lived there since the destruction of the Second Temple, have always had their own distinct culture, religious rites and cuisine and its northern kingdoms and duchies were home to small but vibrant Jewish communities.
Located at the crossroads of commerce between the Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Europe, the Jews of the Piedmont and Northern Italy enjoyed splendor and success for hundreds of years though Jewish presence in most of these areas has by and large disappeared. Nevertheless, many of its small, jewel-like Synagogues are still intact. They are towns without Jews but with spectacular Synagogues that remain as a living testament to once thriving Jewish communities.
Beginning in Bologna, and making our way through the Piedmont, we will enjoy Italy’s beautiful and exotic atmosphere as we travel through Modena, Parma, Turin and Alessandria until we reach sophisticated, bustling Milan. Along the way, we will meet, with members of the Jewish communities of Turin and Milan and learn about Italian Jewish history and culture from our accompanying scholar, Chaim Seidler-Feller.
We invite you to join us as we visit some of these hidden treasures- beautiful, original Synagogues that recall the kabbalists, physicians, bankers, peddlers, and poets who left their mark in the distinctive annals of Jewish Italy
Arrive Bologna, check in to the 5 star Grand Hotel Majestic Gia Baglioni -– superbly located in the City city center. Rest and relax.
Late afternoon: (optional) walking tour of Cathedral Square with its Grand Basilica and charming pedestrian streets lined with quaint shops and cafes.
Evening: Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Jewish Life and Culture in Italy: Between Cultural Integration and Religious Separation,” followed by an opportunity to get to know one another and opening dinner at our hotel (included).
Today we will tour Bologna, including a visit to its lovely synagogue and the Holocaust memorial, whose architects won the International Design Competition. The winning design – called the Shoah Memorial – is a moving testament to the Jews of Italy who perished in the Holocaust.
After lunch on our own, we will visit the historic, fascinating Anatomical Teatro building–located at one of the world’s oldest continuously operating universities and nearby our hotel. The Anatomical Theatre, now a museum, and part of the University of Bologna, is completely carved from spruce with an imposing marble table still in position before the teacher’s chair.
Day trip to Ferrara – setting of the novel, “The Garden of the Finzi Contini.” Home of some of Italian Jewry’s most outstanding personalities, Hebrew printing flourished and was known throughout Europe as one of the leaders of Jewish publications in the 15th and 16th centuries. In Ferrara, we will tour the Jewish Museum, see its three synagogues, and break for lunch on our own before returning to Bologna.
Evening: Chaim Seidler-Feller, “R.Obadia Sforno and R.Shmuel David Luzatto (Shadal):Modernizing Sages in Bologna and Padua,” followed by dinner on our own.
Depart Bologna for Parma, with a stop in Modena to visit its historic and haunting synagogue- at one time, located in the center of the old Jewish ghetto (which existed from 1638 to 1859) and it is one of the largest Synagogues in Italy.
From Modena, we will continue on to Parma- acclaimed for its art, architecture and gastronomy – an elegant city with a compact historic zone, a historic Romanesque cathedral, and a stunning 12th century Baptistery.
Upon arrival we have lunch (included) and visit the Biblioteca Palatina, or Palatina Library, best known for preserving its rare book collection and its valuable, and impressive collection of old Hebrew manuscripts.
Check in to the Grand Hotel. Dinner at our hotel (included).
Depart Parma for Turin with a stop in Alessandria, the third largest city in the Piedmont region, with its own unique Jewish history dating back to the 15th century. The Jewish ghetto in Alessandria can still be discerned in the buildings which remain – complete with galleries, balconies, and internal passageways. Here, we will visit its 1871 post-Emancipation synagogue- famous for its neo-baroque façade and admired for its exquisite interior.
Lunch along the way (included) before continuing on to Turin.
Check in the 5 star Principi de Piedmont hotel in time to attend Shabbat services and have dinner (included) with some of the leading members of the Turin community.
Morning: Free to relax, explore Turin on our own, or attend services at the synagogue — a short walk from our hotel.
Afternoon: Walking tour from our hotel to the world famous Museo Elizio (Egyptian Museum). Famous world-wide, the Museo Egizio is an archaeological museum specializing in Egyptian archaeology and anthropology—housing one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in Europe with over 30,000 artifacts.
Evening: Chaim Feller, “Distinctive Features of Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Italian Synagogue Architecture and Prayer,” followed by dinner on our own.
Day trip to southern Piedmont, where we will visit two charming, small town Synagogues- hidden treasures off the beaten track that few see or visit and would be forgotten and abandoned if not for the Jewish community of Turin still preserving them for those visitors who are interested.
Evening: free, dinner on our own.
Our morning will start with a visit to the Turin Synagogue school, community center and home for the aged run by the Jewish community of Turin, before we depart for Milan. En-route, we will visit the synagogue and museum in Casale Monferrate. A spectacular architectural gem, The Synagogue, built in 1595, is renowned for its exquisite Baroque interior – with walls and ceiling embellished with elaborate painting, carving and gilding.
From here, we will continue on to Milan and check in to the 5 star Grand Hotel et de Milan – where Verdi lived and composed many of his operas over the course of more than 20 years.
Milan sightseeing: Overview tour of Milan: including the Duomo, the Galleria and one of Milan’s many museums (Brera Gallery or Castello Sforzesco)
Evening: (optional) for those interested: a night at the opera! La Scala, located a five minute walk from our hotel, will be performing Verdi’s “Nabucco” this evening.
Dinner on our own.
Morning: Visit Santa Maria della Grazie, renowned for “The Last Supper” fresco by Leonardo de Vinci before continuing on to the Milan train station to see the new Holocaust memorial – “Platform 21.” Situated in an area below the railway tracks, it is now a place for reflection, study and research that is open to all.
Lunch on our own followed by a guided tour of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. An important library and art museum, it contains Hebrew manuscripts as well as artworks that include da Vinci’s “Portrait of a Musician”, Caravaggio’s “Basket of Fruit”, and Raphael’s cartoon of “The School of Athens”.
Evening: visit Milan’s main Synagogue, including presentation by Chaim Feller, “The Italian Ketubah: Cultural Synthesis and Creativity,” and dinner with the Chief Rabbi of Milan and leaders of the Jewish community (included).
Our morning will start with a tour of one of Milan’s leading museums: the Pinacoteca, Palazzo Reale Museum, or 1900 Museum.
Lunch on our own; afternoon free to relax and/or visit other sites of interest.
Evening: Closing meeting and dinner (included).
Depart for home….
Bologna: The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel Majestic “già Baglioni”, is the oldest and most prestigious hotel in Bologna. Situated in the heart of the city on Via dell’Indipendenza, it is within walking distance of Piazza Maggiore and the famous Due Torri (Towers of Bologna). This superb five-star deluxe hotel is situated in a Palazzo which dates back to the first half of the 18th century. With a mix of antique furniture and modern amenities, the hotel is a perfect blend of classic Italian style, elegance and hospitality.
The Grand Hotel de la Ville, within walking distance of the historic area, is located in the exclusive Barilla Center-an innovative mix of industrial architecture which includes upscale shops and restaurants. This hotel is known for its warmth, attention to detail and excellent warm and friendly staff.
The sophisticated Principi Di Piemonte Hotel is situated in the center of Turin — close to the world famous Egyptian Museum of Turin and Piazza San Carlo. Founded in 1930, this five-star hotel is noted for its superb setting and its wonderful location. All its rooms are decorated in an elegant, modern style and its amenities include a full service Spa, fitness center and sauna.
Opened in 1863, the five-star Grand Hotel et de Milan preserves all the charm of an ancient Milanese “house”. Located in the heart of the city, just a few steps from the renowned La Scala Opera House, the Fashion district and the Duomo Cathedral, the Grand Hotel et de Milan the perfect choice for our stay in Milan. Among the many distinguished guests that stayed there was Giuseppe Verdi-who lived and worked there for over 20 years. With its recent renewal, the interior of the Grand Hotel et de Milan is discreet and refined and blends the best of both old and new worlds.