The earliest records of Jewish presence in Genoa date back to the 6th Century, but for over a thousand years it was to remain sporadic, and regarded mainly merchants staying in the city for commercial purposes. From the 12th Century onwards more frequent mention is made, and there are records of a great influx at the end of the 15th Century when, following expulsion from Spain, boatloads of Jewish refugees landed at Genoa, seeking asylum. Most of them were rejected, but a few were granted safe conduct for a limited stay. These were mainly doctors or wealthy merchants, who were considered to be a resource especially after the expulsion from Spain and the consequent formation of new Jewish communities in the cities of trade throughout the Mediterranean area. For the whole of the 16th Century the influence of the ecclesiastical authority, and the hostility from the great families of merchants and bankers who feared competition from the Jews, resulted in the issuing of continuous deportation notices which, however, were never respected by the group as a whole. In 1648, with the establishment of the free port, the Jews were given permission to reside permanently in the city.
From 1658 onwards the life of the Jews was regulated by capitularies, which were renewed every ten years. These capitularies brought about the institution of a ghetto with a synagogue and the assigning of an independent plot of land for use as a burial ground. Between 1660 and 1674 the ghetto was allocated to the houses in the area comprising the street Vico del Campo (formerly Vico degli Ebrei) and several side streets, such as Vico dei Fregoso and Vico Untoria, on the corner which the synagogue is believed to have stood. This was a fairly convenient area for its proximity to the port and the Loggia di Banchi. With the expiry of the first capitularies there was much debate on the expediency of an extension; finally, in 1675, they were renewed, and the group was transferred to a second ghetto, in Piazza dei Tessitori.
Vico del Campo and side streets