Hidden Treasures
Piedmont and Northern Italy

Italy

October 24 — November 4, 2022

Traveling with You...

Scholar in Residence

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.”

Program 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 its 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, and making our way through the Piedmont, we will enjoy Italy’s beautiful and exotic atmosphere as we travel from Milan to Bologna. During our journey, we will view some of the lovely synagogues that survived the Holocaust and were kept intact, as testimony to what were once small but thriving Jewish communities. 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.

Tentative Daily Itinerary*

Monday, October 24 | 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).

Tuesday, October 25 | Milan

Depart for the Milan train station to see the new 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: Free; dinner on our own.

Wednesday, October 26 | Milan

Depart for Santa Maria delle Grazie, where will can 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: Presentation, “Distinctive Features of Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Italian Synagogue Architecture and Prayer,” followed by dinner on our own.

Thursday, October 27 | Milan

Morning 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.

Friday, October 28 | 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 5-star deluxe Principi di Piemonte hotel, noted for its superb setting and wonderful location.

Rest and relax before our Shabbat dinner (included).

Saturday, October 29 | 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.

Sunday, October 30 | Southern Piedmont

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.

Evening: Free; dinner on our own.

Monday, October 31 | Bologna

Depart for Bologna, location of the oldest university in the world. 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 at our hotel (included).

Tuesday, November 1 | Bologna

We will tour Bologna, beginning with a visit to the fascinating Anatomical Teatro, part of one of the world’s oldest continuously operating universities, which is within walking distance of our hotel. The Anatomical Theater, now a museum and part of the University of Bologna, 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.

Wednesday, November 2 | Ferrara

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: Free; dinner on our own.

Thursday, November 3 | 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).

Friday, November 4 | Bologna

Depart for home.

*Please Note: Daily schedule may be modified subject to weather or unanticipated changes.

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 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 old and new worlds.

 
 
Turin: Principi di Piemonte Hotel
The sophisticated Principi di Piemonte Hotel is situated in the center of Turin—within walking distance of the world-famous Egyptian Museum of Turin and the Piazza San Carlo. Founded in 1930, this 5-star hotel is noted for its superb setting and wonderful location. All its rooms are decorated in an elegant modern style, and its amenities include a full-service spa, fitness center, and sauna.

 
 
Bologna: Grand Hotel Majestic
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; 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.

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Accommodations

Travel in comfort. We stay at deluxe hotels with fine amenities. Accommodations for this trip listed below.

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Program Details

Program Cost: $6,950* (plus $54 Museum of Jewish Heritage fee for nonmembers)

Includes:

  • 11 nights’ accommodations at deluxe hotels*
  • Full breakfast daily; three lunches; four dinners
  • All group transportation via deluxe air-conditioned coach
  • Entrance fees to all museums and sites on itinerary

*Per person, double occupancy; single supplement ($1,275) and gratuities ($165) additional.

To reserve your place, please complete the registration form and submit with a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 per person (payable to Jewish Heritage Travel). Balance is due in full by June 24, 2022.

Please note: If Covid restrictions cause us to postpone this trip, your deposit will be credited toward your choice of any 2022 or 2023 Jewish Heritage Travel program.

Participation

We require that all participants provide proof of Covid vaccination to participate in any Jewish Heritage Travel program.

Limited to 26 participants, the program will entail considerable walking, including uneven terrain. Participants need to be in active, good health, able to keep up with the group, ready to travel and experience group and cultural differences with grace. If you have any questions, or need help with your travel plans, please call the Jewish Heritage Travel Office at 845-256-0197.

Help with Travel Arrangements

One of the services we provide, at no additional charge, is to help with your travel arrangements. Our knowledgeable and patient staff can assist you in making your travel plans — including booking reservations that are available from the various airlines.