01 May 2007

Rome: Gentrification of the ghetto

JTA's recent story details the changes afoot in Rome's ghetto.

Once locked in at night, the Jewish residents have moved out as the ghetto has become fashionable and expensive.

Settimio Limentani no longer feels at home in the Jewish ghetto here, where he grew up, where he knew everybody and everybody had a nickname, and where his family has lived and worked for hundreds of years.

The family clothing store on the main plaza was first leased in 1846 by the ruling papal authorities.

Now Limentani may have to give up the business because real estate in Rome's ghetto has skyrocketed, and so have the rents. While rents have about doubled in other parts of Rome in the past five years, prices in the ghetto have tripled, and apartments with light and a view are now going for as much as $1,000 per square foot.

From 1555 to 1870, Rome's Jews were required to live in the ghetto.

According to the article, in 1945, 6,000 of the city's 11,000 Jews lived there, in a small area (300 yards by 250 yards); today, there are only about 700 Jews left in the ghetto area. Buildings have been renovated, prices are rising and although the Jews seem to have left, the main Jewish institutions are still in the ghetto.

Talking about the Roman government and the city's Jewish community, Limentani says, "They are turning the ghetto into a museum."

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