Our itinerary in Livorno takes us to several curious places including the synagogue built in 1962 on the site of the previous synagogue which dated from 1591 but was bombed during WWII. The original synagogue was long considered one of the most splendid religious monuments of the European diaspora and was used as a model for the synagogue in Amsterdam, which still exists. The community opted for a modern structure to replace the original, yet incorporated elements from the old building which juxtapose the modernity of the structure itself. The archives and community offices are located next door to the synagogue.
The Jewish Museum in Livorno opened in 1992 in a neoclassical building with a history as the family oratory of the Marini family, a charity confraternity until 1867, and the prayer room which was in use until the new synagogue was completed.
There are also two Jewish cemeteries out of the four originals which are still in existence and worth the visit to top off your historical visit of Livorno!
Livorno was one of two Tuscan cities, along with Pisa, which never had a ghetto. It was established by the Medicis to be a lively sea outlet for the commercial center of Pisa. Ferdinand I de' Medici invited Portuguese Marranos to settle here and in Pisa in 1593. They were offered freedom to trade and worship as well as protection from the Inquisition and the added bonus of no ghetto. The port had already been proclaimed a free port in 1548.
These freedoms and economic advantages attracted the Jewish population to the booming port city. The Jewish population continued to grow until it reached 5,000 in 1800, at which time Spanish became the common language among Jews along with "Bagitto" a dialect which mixed Italian, Spanish, and Jewish, which was spoken in the center. Although there was no forced ghetto, the Jewish people of Livorno historically lived near the port.
The lively Jewish community here became a cultural reference point for the Western Diaspora until the Napoleon blockade, which sent the community of Livorno into decline.