Join our email list

Hidden Treasures of Italian Jewry
Northern Italy
Milan to Bologna
November 4–15, 2024

Overview

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 their northern kingdoms and duchies were home to small but vibrant Jewish communities.

Located at the crossroads of commerce between the Mediterranean Sea and northern Europe, the Jews of the Piedmont and northern Italy enjoyed splendor and success for hundreds of years, though the Jewish presence in most of these areas has mostly disappeared. Nevertheless, many of its small, jewel-like synagogues are still intact. There are towns without Jews but with spectacular synagogues that remain a living testament to once-thriving Jewish communities.

Beginning in Milan, we’ll make our way through the Piedmont to enjoy Italy’s beautiful and exotic atmosphere as we travel to Bologna. During our journey, we will view some of those extraordinary synagogues that survived the Holocaust, monuments to the Italian Jews who once lived here. 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 the hidden treasures of this land, including beautiful original synagogues that recall the kabbalists, physicians, bankers, peddlers, and poets who left their mark in the distinctive annals of Jewish Italy.

Highlights

  • 11 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels
  • Walking tours of Milan, Turin, and Ferrara
  • Tours of the Pinacoteca di Brera Gallery, Ambrosiana Gallery, Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum), and more
  • Visits to Milan and Bologna’s Holocaust memorials, Santa Maria delle Grazie (with da Vinci’s The Last Supper), Museo del Novecento, Sinagoga Centrale, the Synagogue of Casale Monferrato, the Great Synagogue of Turin, the synagogue of Asti, the Biblioteca Palatina, the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah, and the Bologna synagogue
  • Presentations and discussions with Rabbi and Jewish Heritage Travel scholar Chaim Seidler-Feller and guest lecturers
  • Day trip to southern Piedmont to tour charming small synagogues
  • View fragments of an 11th-century Talmud at the Archivio di Stato di Bologna

Itinerary

Monday, November 4 | Milan
Arrive in Milan and check in to the 5-star Grand Hotel et de Milan, superbly located in the city center. Rest and relax.

Afternoon: (optional) Walking tour of the area, including the Milan Cathedral, La Scala Square, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II — Italy’s oldest shopping gallery, under a four-story, glass-domed ceiling.

Evening: Presentation by Chaim Seidler-Feller, “Jewish Life and Culture in Italy: The Tension Between Cultural Integration and Religious Separation,” followed by an opportunity to get to know one another and opening dinner at our hotel (included).

Meals: Dinner
Hotel: Grand Hotel et de Milan

 

Tuesday, November 5 | Milan
Depart for the Milan train station to see the Holocaust memorial, “Platform 21.” The platform, today part of the Holocaust Memorial, was secretly hidden under the central railway station and used to deport Italian Jews to Auschwitz. Situated below the railway tracks, it is now a place for reflection, study, and research that is open to all.

After lunch on our own, a private guided tour of the Pinacoteca di Brera Gallery, containing one of the foremost collections of 19th– and 20th-century Italian paintings.

Evening: “Distinctive Features of Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Italian Synagogue Architecture and Prayer,” followed by dinner on our own.

Meals: Breakfast
Hotel: Grand Hotel et de Milan

 

Wednesday, November 6 | Milan
Depart for Santa Maria delle Grazie, where we’ll view Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting The Last Supper. We will continue to the Museo del Novecento, known for its impressive collection of more than 400 works of 20th-century Italian art. 

Lunch on our own at the Museo del Novecento, before continuing to the Ambrosiana Gallery for a private guided tour. This gallery comprises several exquisite artworks from the 15th through 17th centuries, including The Musician, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci; Raphael’s cartoon for the School of Athens fresco; and Caravaggio’s famous still-life painting The Basket of Fruit.

Evening: free; dinner on our own.

Meals: Breakfast
Hotel: Grand Hotel et de Milan

 

Thursday, November 7 | Milan
Morning presentation by Chaim Feller, followed by a visit to the Sinagoga Centrale, Milan’s main synagogue, founded in 1892 and designed by the Italian architect Luca. Completely refurbished following World War II, it is quite beautiful inside, though only its original façade remains; services are conducted in the Sephardic as well as the Italian traditions.

Afternoon: Free for last-minute shopping or exploring sites of interest on our own.

Evening: Free, dinner on our own

Meals: Breakfast
Hotel: Grand Hotel et de Milan

 

Friday, November 8 | Casale Monferrato, Turin
Depart for Turin. En route, we will visit the astonishing synagogue and museum in Casale Monferrato. 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.

Following lunch (included), we will continue to Turin and check in to the Turin Palace hotel, noted for its superb setting and wonderful location. 

Rest and relax before our Shabbat dinner (included).

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: Turin Palace Hotel

 

Saturday, November 9 | Turin
Morning: Free to relax, explore Turin on our own, or (optional) attend services at the Sinagoga di Torino, the Great Synagogue of Turin, also known as the Israelite Temple.

Afternoon: Walking tour from our hotel to the world-famous Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) for a private guided tour. This museum specializes in Egyptian archaeology and anthropology, housing one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in Europe, with more than 30,000 artifacts.

Evening: Free; dinner on our own.

Meals: Breakfast
Hotel: Turin Palace Hotel

 

Sunday, November 10 | Turin
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 that would be forgotten and abandoned if not for the Jewish community of Turin still preserving them.

Lunch (included) along the way.

Afternoon: Enjoy a walking tour of a charming village before returning to the hotel. 
 
Evening: Free; dinner on our own.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Hotel: Turin Palace Hotel

 

Monday, November 11 | Asti, Parma, Bologna
Depart for Bologna, a city that holds one of the world’s oldest continuously operating universities. Bologna is also renowned for its Talmudic and Torah study academies, as well as the printing of Jewish religious books. 

En route to Bologna, we will stop at Asti, which has its own unique Jewish history. Though it is believed that Asti’s Jewish community existed as early as the eighth century, it became prominent in the 14th century, with the arrival of many Jews expelled from France. As a result, the Jews of Asti, Fossano, and Moncalvo—known collectively by the Hebrew acronym AFAM—also had unique Jewish prayer traditions and spoke a local dialect of Piedmontese Hebrew. The synagogue that we will visit was founded in 1786.

From Asti, we will continue to Parma, acclaimed for its art and architecture. An elegant city, Parma features a Romanesque cathedral and a stunning 12th-century baptistry.

Upon arrival in Parma, lunch (included) and a visit to the Biblioteca Palatina, best known for preserving its rare-book collection and its impressive collection of old Hebrew manuscripts.

In the late afternoon, we will continue to Bologna and check in to the 5-star Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni, a luxurious hotel superbly located in the city center. Rest and relax before dinner near our hotel (included).

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni

Tuesday, November 12 | Bologna
We will tour Bologna, beginning with a visit to the fascinating Anatomical Teatro, which is within walking distance of our hotel. Now a museum and part of the University of Bologna, the Anatomical Theater was originally used for anatomy lectures. With an imposing marble table that was used for demonstrations for aspiring medical students, the theater contains superb wooden carvings made from spruce. 

We will then walk to the Archivio di Stato di Bologna, where we will see fragments of an 11th-century Talmud and images of an ancient Sefer Torah, before breaking for lunch on our own.

Evening presentation by Chaim Seidler-Feller and Rabbis Obadia Sforno and Shmuel David Luzatto (Shadal): “Modernizing Sages in Bologna and Padua,” followed by dinner on our own.

Meals: Breakfast
Hotel: Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni

Wednesday, November 13 | Ferrara, Bologna
Day trip to Ferrara, setting of the best-selling book The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Ferrara, known throughout Europe as a leading site for Jewish publications in the 15th and 16th centuries, was home to some of Italian Jewry’s most outstanding personalities, as well as a place where Hebrew printing flourished. We will enjoy a guided walking tour of this enchanting city, including the original Jewish ghetto; the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah; and the Jewish cemetery — an evocative, silent place dominated by nature. In the cemetery is the tomb of Giorgio Bassani, author of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, who died in 2000.

Break for lunch on our own in Ferrara, with time for meandering about the town before returning to Bologna in late afternoon.

Evening: Lecture by Chaim Seidler-Feller, followed by dinner on our own.

Meals: Breakfast
Hotel: Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni

Thursday, November 14 | Bologna
Morning visit to Bologna’s 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. We will then visit the Bologna synagogue before breaking for lunch on our own. 

Afternoon: Free for last-minute shopping or exploring sites of interest on our own.

Evening: Closing farewell dinner at our hotel (included).

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Hotel: Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni

Friday, November 15
Depart for home.

Meals: Breakfast

Traveling with you…

Each of our scholars are outstanding experts in their fields and play an active role in helping us design our journeys as well as accompanying us as we travel. 

Chaim Seidler-Feller recently celebrated his 40th year of working with students and faculty as the executive director of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA. Currently director emeritus, he also serves as director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals. An ordained rabbi, he also completed a master’s degree in rabbinic literature. Chaim has been a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is also a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute, North America, and of the Wexner Heritage Foundation and was rabbinic consultant to Barbra Streisand during the making of the film Yentl. The International Hillel Center has granted Chaim the Hillel Professional Recognition Award “for blending the love of Jewish tradition with the modern intellectual approach of the university.”

Lucy Rapoport, trip leader, has guided and accompanied many previous Jewish heritage tours, all to great acclaim. Born and schooled in England before moving to Italy as a young adult, Lucy is fluent in Italian, German, French, and Spanish and has been a tour manager for over twenty years. Specializing in Europe, she has accompanied previous Jewish groups to such places as Lithuania, Krakow, Prague, Berlin, Croatia, Spain, Romania, Serbia, France, northern and southern Italy, and Sicily. With Lucy’s attention to detail, knowledge of history, and considerable expertise in guiding groups, participants will be well served on this trip.

Accommodations

Milan: Grand Hotel et de Milan

Opened in 1863, the 5-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 theater, the Fashion district, and the Duomo Cathedral, the Grand Hotel et de Milan is the perfect choice for our stay in Milan. Among the many distinguished guests who have stayed, Giuseppe Verdi lived and worked here for over 20 years. With its recent renewal, the refined interior of the Grand Hotel et de Milan blends the best of old and new worlds.

Turin: Turin Palace Hotel

The sophisticated and recently remodeled Turin Palace Hotel sits opposite Porta Nuova, the city’s main railway station, right in the historic city centre and within walking distance of the world-famous Egyptian Museum and the Piazza San Carlo. Founded in 1930, this 4-star hotel is noted for its contemporary, stylish decor, spacious rooftop terrace, and light-filled rooms. 

Bologna: Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni

The Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni is the oldest and most prestigious hotel in Bologna. Right in the heart of the city on Via dell’Indipendenza, it is within walking distance of Piazza Maggiore, the famous Due Torri (Towers of Bologna), and the university. This superb 5-star deluxe hotel is situated in a palazzo that dates 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.

Details

Program cost $7,850* includes:

  • 11 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels 
  • Full breakfast daily; three lunches; four dinners 
  • All group transportation via deluxe air-conditioned coach  

*Per-person, double occupancy; single supplement: $2,200. Fees not included: gratuities: $195. Museum membership for nonmembers.

Secure your place

Book Now: use the link below to reach our easy online booking form.

By phone: 845-256-0197 Monday–Friday, 10am–4pm EST.

Payment Reserve your space with a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 per person. Final balance is due 120 days prior to departure.

Membership Participation on these tours is a benefit for active members of our museum partners. During the registration process, you will be asked about your membership status with your affiliated museum. If you are not a current member, you will have a chance to activate your membership.

Participation Tour sizes are limited to 28 participants unless otherwise noted. Trips entail considerable walking including over uneven terrain. Participants need to be in good health, be able to keep up with the group, be able to experience group and cultural differences with grace. Please let us know if you have any physical conditions that may require special attention while on tour.

Cancellations All cancellations must be received by Jewish Heritage Travel in writing. Cancellations received 120 days or more prior to departure: full refund less nonrefundable deposits, per person; 119–90 days prior to departure: 50% refund per person after nonrefundable deposits. 89–0 days before departure: no refund.

Trip Cancellation Insurance Jewish Heritage Travel strongly urges all participants to purchase travel insurance for coverage of losses necessitated by having to cancel due to illness or accident. For your convenience, we are providing a link to Allianz Global Assistance, which many past participants have used. Please use code ACCAM/Agency ID# F026815 or feel free to use your own insurance agent. When purchasing insurance, please consider the plans carefully to familiarize yourself with what is covered. In this context, do take note that most insurance companies generally will waive exclusion for preexisting conditions only if your application is received by them within 14 days from the date of your program registration. If you have a preexisting medical condition and are interested in taking trip insurance, you should do so either with Allianz or through your own insurance agent within 14 days of registration.

Changes All rights are reserved by Jewish Heritage Travel to make scholar substitutions and/or to modify the itinerary (including hotels) as needed. Every reasonable effort will be made to operate the program as planned; however, should unforeseen world events and conditions require the itinerary to be altered, Jewish Heritage Travel reserves the right to do so for the safety and best interest of the group. Any extra expenses incurred in this situation are the responsibility of the participant.

Disclaimer of Responsibility By registering for this program, participant specifically waives any and all claims of action against the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Heritage Travel office and their respective staffs for damages, loss, injury, accident, or death incurred by any person in connection with this tour. The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Heritage Travel office and their respective staffs assume no responsibility or liability in connection with the service of any train, vessel, carriage, aircraft, or other conveyance that may be used wholly or in part in the performance of their duty to the passengers. Neither will the Museum of Jewish Heritage or the Jewish Heritage Travel office or their staffs be responsible for any injury, death, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity through neglect or default of any company or person engaged in carrying out the purposes for which tickets, vouchers, or coupons are issued. No responsibility is accepted for losses or expenses due to sickness, viruses, weather, strikes, wars, and other causes. In the event it becomes necessary or advisable for any reason whatsoever to alter the itinerary or arrangements, including hotels or scholars, such alterations may be made without penalty. All rights reserved to require any participant to withdraw from the tour at his/her own expense when such an action is determined by the tour staff to be in the best interest of the participant’s health and safety and that of the group in general. Prices subject to change. Cost in effect at time of registration will be honored.

Begin your booking.

Please click on the museum you are affiliated with regardless of your membership status. Choose the last button if neither or if you are not sure.

Clicking will take you to the next step in booking.