Rome unveils virtual tour through the ghetto

Rome has a new walk on its historical tourism circuit: a virtual stroll through the streets of the ghetto to which Jews were confined for more than three centuries.

Rome unveils virtual tour through the ghetto
The walls built around Rome's Ghetto were pulled down in 1888. Rome Ghetto photo: Shutterstock

From Friday, visitors to the city's Jewish museum will be able to explore the jumbled, overcrowded neighbourhood as it was in the second half of the 19th century via an interactive table which provides access to a meticulously reconstructed 3D map that works like Google street view.

The requirement for Jews to live in the Ghetto, established by a Papal Bull of 1555, was abolished with the establishment of Italy in 1870.

The walls built around it were pulled down in 1888 and most of the buildings inside the enclosure also quickly disappeared as Rome underwent rapid change in line with its new status as national capital.

Many of the ghetto buildings had been extended upwards in a bid to cope with chronic overcrowding and a ban on horizontal expansion, ensuring some of the streets rarely saw the sun.

The impression overall however is of a neighbourhood not too far removed from how it is today with the notable exception that the adjacent River Tiber was far less securely banked, making the area prone to flooding.

Working out which building was where and what they looked like required an eight-strong team of archaeologists, architectural and art historians and software experts who worked full time for almost a year to establish a data-base on which the display is based.

As the few photos available to them were all black and white, they relied heavily on the work of artists, most notably Ettore Roesler Franz (1845-1907), to get the colours right.

Roesler Franz is best known for a collection of 120 water colours entitled "Roma sparita" (disappeared Rome) which documented the new capital's modernization.

The museum is part of the same building that houses Rome's main synagogue in a neighbourhood that is still home to a small section of Italy's Jewish community, which is one of the longest established in Europe.

Museum directors are discussing whether the 3D vision of the ghetto will be made available online or remain exclusively for visitors.

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Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.