Sicily has always been a microcosm: a composite world in which people of different race, religion and language have clashed and met, leaving in the island a stratification of extremely significant traces. One of this hidden part is, beyond all doubts, the millenary Jewish presence in Sicily. Living in the island till the Spanish exile of 1492, the Sicilian Jewish community was one of the most important in the Mediterranean area and was well integrated within the local component. The following itineraries offer the possibility to travel into the past and to regain one of the most fascinating pages in the history of Sicily
Syracuse- full day guided tour
The tour starts in Acradina, the site of the earliest Jewish settlement. We will visit the catacombs of S. Giovanni and the crypt of S. Marciano, who, according to the legend, was killed by the Jews of the city. Then, we'll move to the island of Ortigia and walk in the narrow streets of the Giudecca (the ancient Jewish quarter). See the site of the Synagogue and the Miqwè- Jewish ritual bath, 11 metres below ground level, the most archaic that has ever been found in all Europe.
The tour ends in the Bellomo Gallery, where some of the tombstones from the Jewish medieval cemetery are displayed..
Messina- half day guided tour
Discover the centre of Messina and its ancient Jewish quarter. Visit the Norman Cathedral- with its latin iscription against the Jewish city- community and the beautiful Palazzo Penso- Jewish family heritage. It will follow a visit to the Regional Archeological Museum that, amongst its artistic treasures, has a Hebrew synagogal inscription of unestimated linguistic value.
Messina- Taormina full day guided tour
After the above- described visit of Messina, we will drive south up to the rocky city of Taormina. Visit of the Greek Theatre and its antiquarium, where Greek inscriptions demonstrate the Jewish presence in the city since the classic age. Later, walk to the site of the Jewish quarter and the mediaeval convent of S. Domenico.
Catania- half day guided tour
The tour starts with a visit of the Cathedral, built at Norman times and dedicated to Sant' Agata, the Patron Saint of the city. Some time will be devoted to the inscription of the Jewish exile decree. Then, we'll move on to the impressive Castello Orsino and its ponderous keep, erected by Emperor Fredrick II in the Swabian period. See the Jewish symbols in the castle architecture and the Greek inscription about some local Jews.
Catania- Agira full day guided tour
After the above- described visit of Catania, we will drive to the picturesque city of Agira. Visit the Synagogue site and the magnificent stone portal of the aron hakodesh with its Hebrew iscription. The portal, unique example of Jewish architecture, will give us an insight into the life of a small Jewish community in the heart of mediaeval Sicily
Jewish Palermo- full day guided tour
Our tour starts in the historical centre of the city, walking through the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and its fascinating remains. We will visit to the site of the Synagogue and with the help of some descriptions made by Jewish mediaeval travellers, we will discover the biggest Jewish community of the capital city.
Later, we walk to the Duomo and the imposing building of the Norman Palace for a deeper understanding of the social intercourse between Jews, religious power and political power.
The tour ends in the splendid Norman royal palace of the Zisa, built in Norman Arab style, that still keeps a Hebrew inscription and a Jewish candle-holder.