The Jewish spaces of Piedmont are unique given their concentration and variety in this part of Italy; they represent an inestimable heritage for people wishing the learn about the history of this community which permanently settled in the land of the duchy in the 15th century. Their presence was especially felt in urban centres, but it was only on 29th March 1848, thanks to the Royal Decrees issued by Charles Albert, that Jews obtained civil and political rights and the chance to take on civil and military roles.
Alongside Turin, the historic capital of the Savoy Kingdom, 12 other cities in Piedmont have opened up their Jewish places of worship, ancient ghettos, cemeteries, and museums to visitors. The Jewish heritage you will find includes inscriptions, stuccoes, inlay work, sacred objects and art which decorated the synagogues built after the 1848 Jewish Emancipation and in those in the pre-existing ghetto. You will find this heritage in cities such as Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Casale Monferrato, Carmagnola, Cherasco, Cuneo, Ivrea, Mondovì and Saluzzo. You will find examples of simple living spaces, devoid of any externally recognisable elements, and establishments for the most part unaltered since 1848. Today, a permanent exhibition depicts the synagogue of Asti and in Carmagnola, there is a multimedia trail dedicated to the history of the local community; in Biella, the centre of worship is located in the high part of the city, specifically in the historic hamlet of Piazzo. In Alessandria, the synagogue is currently undergoing important refurbishments, just like Ivrea's small temple. The Cuneo area preserves the synagogues of Cuneo, Mondovì, and the small Baroque gems of Saluzzo and Cherasco.
The oldest Piedmontese synagogue which pre-dates the ghetto is located in Casale Monferrato. Founded in 1595, it is one of the most refined Jewish centres in Europe. This synagogue is an authentic Piedmontese Baroque masterpiece and today it represents a national monument, with its splendid prayer rooms entirely decorated with inscriptions and citations in Jewish, golden stuccoes and inlaid vaults. Behind the chiselled wooden grates of the two women's galleries, there's a precious collection of the Jewish Museum of Art and History (also known as the "Museum of Silverware"); the spaces underground - which are where unleavened bread was once baked - now house the Museum of Lights, a unique collection of 200 menorahs (the nine-branched candelabrum), created by international contemporary artists.
The Jewish complexes of Turin and Vercelli were built after the Emancipation. The main seat of the Jewish community in Piedmont is the synagogue in Turin, which has an interesting past. In 1861, once the Kingdom of Italy was established, the community entrusted the construction of a new temple to famous architect Alessandro Antonelli (link a itinerari antonelliani). But when the 47-metre building continued to grow exponentially with no end in sight, the Jewish Community gave the area to the Municipality in exchange for land where, in 1884, the current neo-Moorish style synagogue was built. Today, the original building site is Turin's major landmark: the Mole Antonelliana (headquarters of the National Cinema Museum). In addition to the synagogue, it's possible to visit the exhibition in the gallery of the Small Temple and access the library. In Vercelli, the Vercelli Synagogue, completed in 1878, and the collection of sacred objects of the Vercelli Museum are accessible through guided tours.