52 Reasons to Love Sicily. #5. Sicily is full of surprises. Check out the Jewish baths of Siracusa! Huh? You ask? Yes! Before the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, when Sicily was under Spanish rule, scholars believe 7 to 10 percent of Sicily’s population was Jewish. Thriving neighborhoods existed in Palermo, Mazara del Vallo, and Siracusa (to name a few cities). The island’s multicultural heritage is fascinating and provocative.
During the last 25 years, locals and scholars have begun to uncover what was lost (expelled, really) more than 500 years ago. One of the most extraordinary discoveries was a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bathhouse, excavated one bucket of mud at a time by Amalia Daniele di Bagni and the association Siracusa III Millennio. Pictured is the subterranean chamber that contains five spring-fed cleansing tubs that exists three stories below street level! Its discovery then led to the identification of the adjacent ruins of La Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista or San Giovannello church (St. John the Baptist) as having been one of the synagogues of the quarter of Ortigia island known as la Giudecca.
There is so much more to this remarkable story that I love to share with my clients. Be prepared to be not only surprised, but be astonished by Sicily!
(Photo Credit: From Diary of a Discover by Amalia Daniele di Bagni)