Great Synagogue and Museum of Florence
Great Synagogue and Museum of Florence is a large and interesting synagogue with a small museum that will give you some background on the Jewish community in Florence.
It's a short walk from Piazza Santa Croce. If you happen to be are over there, it's worth stopping by here.
Great Synagogue and Museum of Florence was built with funds from the Estate of David Levi (Italian-Jewish poet and politician). His wish was to have a Synagogue worthy of Florence. The workmanship and detail of this synagogue built in the late 1800's is breathtaking. The Moorish influence on the architecture is very beautiful. The architects were Marco Treves, Mariano Falcini and professor Vincente Micheli. Their design integrated the architectural traditions of the Islamic and Italian worlds.
The copper roof was oxidized to have the green roof stand out over the Florentine skyline.
The interior is richly decorated with skillfully hand painted walls. Giovanni Panti created the mosaics and frescoes. The pillars surrounding the main arch (Giacomo del Medico designed them) are black marble with gold paneling. It is magnificent.
The museum upstairs is a bit small. However, it is very informative and moving. It has some beautiful sacramental ornaments and religious scrolls. There are extremely knowledgeable congregation members there to explain the history of Jews in Florence. They will also provide you information about the present.
The grounds are very peaceful. In the garden of the temple there is a memorial displaying the names of the Jewish people living in the Florence community killed by the Nazis. A similar plaque is also at the railway station of Santa Maria Novella. It is the location from which set off the train of Jewish prisoners headed for the concentration camps.
Great Synagogue and Museum of Florence was a great experience. Synagogues do not look like this anywhere in America. Despite the destruction of most of the Jewish community in Italy during the holocaust, this synagogue still operates regularly. It is well worth the visit. It was interesting to learn about the local Jewish community in Florence.
Afterwards if you are hungry you can stop next-door and eat at Ruth's Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant. About a mile down the road is a Chabad House.