Vienna to Florence
Jews and Vienna
a description of the Emperor and the Royal Family, he
tells us that:
'In Vienna Jews may not dwell; nor may a Jew spend the night on pain
of punishment of 30 ungheri and a further 30 for him who receives him;
but if a foreign Jew wishes for urgent purposes to stay in the city
day and night, he can easily obtain permission by means of an authorisation
from the Emperor, which ordinarily costs a thaler per day, which is
paid to the Chancellery on receipt of the authorisation for as many
days as have been requested.
About 800 Hebrews reside there permanently, all being privileged, as
they are all commissaries of the armies or something else, or have affairs
with the Court; and behind this they transact their private affairs
in all forms of business, especially in exchange, being great specialists
in arbitrage, and many are important jewellers and may live in any quarter.
They are rich and live prosperously in their own houses, some of them
drive in carriages and keep open house, where I dined with various Christians,
some being men of rank.
There are eight synagogues, seven being German and one Portuguese. They
are public, although they are in the private houses of the principal
Jews, where the prayers are recited precisely at the usual hours and
with the same rules and correctness as elsewhere'. He then describes
the Palace and Library of Prince Eugene.
Vienna to Venice
Sunday 20 March, two hours before dawn, he left for Venice by the post-chaise.
Five stages of the post carried him through snow into the mountains,
passing 'Naistat' (Neustadt), Gratz, capital of Styria, Lubljana, capital
of Carinthia, finally to Gorizia, capital of (Austrian) Friuli (here
there is a ghetto with many Jews and two synagogues), and Porto-gruer
(Porto-gruaro), which was reached on Wednesday nigkt 24 March.
Here they crossed the lagoons in a small boat to Venice, which was reached
on Friday 25 March.
Here he had to deliver a package of letters from the Marquis Bartolomei
to the Minister of Tuscany ;
the Minister offered to take a Letter from Cassuto, but as it was now
the Sabbath he asked him to address the letter to his house in Florence
telling them of his safe arrival, though he could not sign it himself
But on the Sunday he received word unexpectedly through the Secretary
of State that his family were counting the hours to seeing him.
In Venice his friends came to find and embrace him while he stayed four
days. Some he sought out himself. It was more exhausting than restful.
At the time Princess Eleanora Guastalla (ofTuscany) was in Venice, and
he went to pay his respects.
This took some hours, since she wished him to describe to her the progress
of his journey.
At the end she recalled to him the time when he was there during Carnival
and part of Lent in 1711 when still a beardless youth, unlike now when
he had a long beard.
Amid a long description of the city and its customs he speaks of the
former Jewish Quarter, called Giuvecca ( corrupted, as he said, from
the Jews were first martyred and then driven out.
Some escaped by grace of a certain nobleman and were allowed to return
and recorded the event,
as being something at length forgotten, inasmuch as he enabled them
now to become famous and re-established them with great privileges and
promises that nothing of the kind would ever happen again.
But as the years passed, trade declined and they were unable to keep
open shops, but since they have the right to practise freely as traders
and brokers, they keep their wares in their own houses and stores. Relations
are so good that the word 'Hebrew' is not applied to them but is banned
and they are called 'merchants' and addressed as 'Mr. Merchant', and
there is no gentleman's house to which they have not free access, especially
when they serve that house as major-domo or manager of its affairs.
The Jewish community there has three ghettoes - the Old, the New, and
the Newest - all three confined in a walled enclosure with eight synagogues
and a Hebrew printing press.
'In the past', he says, 'the Hebrew nation was one of the best features
of Venice, when they possessed very powerful houses doing much business
and famous throughout the world, but then by reason of controversies
and disagreements among themselves they came to contract a heavy debt
with the Republic itself - In particular in such a way that the interest
grew to extravagant surns - so much, that the capital of all of them
would not serve to pay off their debts, and it was thereby worse because
today there are few houses which have funds and make a show, but are
tolerated, and the Republic, with the utmost clemency, has made them
reductions and waived the interest.
Nevertheless they pay every year insufferable amounts which they raise
by a miracle. Many houses have left, although the penalties of excommunication
have been thundered at those who leave as being debtors to society and
Some from outside who desired to come and open business houses in this
city, abstained, because they did not wish to incur the prejudice of
the previous debts and therefore it was agreed that anyone could come
freely and pay the usual taxes and burdens which might be imposed on
him by the Hebrew community according to his status and condition; but
that no one without any exception should be taxed more than 500 ducats
To this the Repub1ic gave its pledge and agreed that all who in future
should wish should come and live there and open business houses, and
in this way many have appeared and there is a Piazza full of business
and there is much agreement there.
'This shows how practical it was, because there are business houses
which were among those formerly obliged to contribute to the burden
of the old debts which are taxed and pay 8,000, 10,000, and in some
cases 12,000 ducats a year, yet they carry on and live in splendour
and do great business'.
Ferrara and Bologna and some delay because of his long beard
From here he made arrangements to leave by boat for Ferrara on Tuesday
29 March and they reached Ferrara on 30 March. There were a goodly number
of Hebrews at Ferrara: some of them very rich. They may practise all
sorts of trade and arts, have four synagogues and a ghetto, and carry
the Jewish Sign on their hat. He left next day for Bologna, which he
describes at length.
There had been Jews there formerly, but Cassuto did not know the reason
for their departure, though he knows well that the nobility would 1ike
them well and would do everything they could that they should 1ive there,
but now there is no sign of them to be seen.
On 31 March he left Bologna and spent the night a Fiorenzuola. But when
it came to leaving next morning, the Devil, always looking for trouble,
found means of delaying his departure at the last moment of his long
and weary journey.
He ran into a battalion of Spanish soldiers near Scarperia. A soldier
of the Guard took him to the notary, who, seeing him dressed in Levantine
costume, with a long beard, subjected him to a wearisome examination
and tried to embroil him because he had with him papers written in Turkish,
Hebrew, and German. These were capable of keeping him in restraint for
weeks, until finally the interpreters came to recognise him and found
nothing to pick on.
God put it into his mouth to claim that, as he was a subject of the
Grand Duke, none but his officer could search him in his own State.
He offered to send his servant to Florence to obtain a passport or papers
from H.R.H. the Duke, while remaining himself as a hostage, and the
Commandant agreed. After long argument the notary took a note of all
his possessions for the Commandant and let him go, to keep the Sabbath
off the beard and home at Passover
the bridge of San Piero a Sieve, the Commandant accepted his explanations,
and at the Uccellatoio Cassuto found a fast carriage sent by his friend
to show him the way to the villa at Romito where, as he had written,
he wished to remain outside the town on account of his beard, without
having to remove it all at once, and to rest for a few days, free from
the visits to be expected from his friends.
On Wednesday 1 Apri1 1735, at twenty-first hour, they reached the Villa
of Romito, where he found his wife and others of his circle waiting
for him, who had received word of his arrival by the express post.
Then came the barber and removed his thick beard and cut his hair, which
he had let grow untouched since the day when he left Florence.
His friends, too, came to see him in some number, though all were busy
with the approach of the Passover .
On Tuesday evening 5 April (the eve of the Passover) he left for Florence
by carriage. The following day he shaved the rest of his beard and hair,
doffed his Levantine dress and at the twenty-third hour left his house
to give thanks in the synagogue to omnipotent God for his kindness and
mercy in bringing him safely home.
next to come: the second journey to Holland!