Four Days, Four Centuries of Jewish Florence

By 1570, the Jews of Tuscany were living on borrowed time. Their brothers and sisters in Venice and Rome had already been forced to live in ghettoes.

Since 1555, Pope Paul IV authorized Christian rulers to separate Jews from Christians. Tuscan Jews were ordered to wear segnos – yellows hat for men, yellow kerchiefs or sleeves for women – lest anyone confuse them for Christians. 

Finally, in 1570, Cosimo I de’ Medici, just appointed first Grand Duke of Tuscany, decreed that the Jews were promoting spiritual and moral deviance and gave them a choice: Leave or move into a ghetto. So more than 500 Jewish men, women and children were relocated from 20 Medici towns across Tuscany into buildings constructed around a piazza in the center of Florence, enclosed by gates that were shut every night. Their landlord? Cosimo I de’ Medici.

There they lived, paying rent to the Medici family until the dynasty fell into extinction.  The Ghetto was demolished in the early 1890s to allow for the renovation of the area, which later became the Piazza della Repubblica.