Roman Empire to 12th Century

1391-1492 Arrival to 1541 Departure: Kingdom of Naples

20th Century

One source states that the Varsano name originates from Conversano in Pulia (Puglia), Italy. While Conversano sounds similar to Varsano, it is a different name with an “ver” rather than an ‘var”. It also has the “con” prefix and family names were typically not shorten versions of a common word, but named after a town or place of origin. Some Varsanos may have been Conversos (or Conversanos), who were secret Jews but forced Christian converts. However, there is ample evidence that many Jews from Spain did relocate to Puglia, so it’s very possible that some members of the Varsano family lived there. Puglia, along with much of the southern Italian peninsula lies directly between east coast of Catalan and Salonica where we know the majority of the Varsano family eventually settled.

  • Italian Geneology add DNA resukts
  • Among surnames implying roots from Sicily, southern, or central Italy are Adato, Anav, Augustari, de Botton, Capuano, Chimino, Mat‐ alon, Perahia, Piperno, Recanati, Salerno, Sonino, Talbi, Taranto, Varsano, and Ventura. From Article Surnames of Jewish People in the Land of Israel from the Sixteenth Century to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century by Alexander Beider, Special Issue Current Trends and Topics in Jewish Genealogy Edited by Prof. Dr. Hanoch Daniel Wagner

    • Apulia
      • AC: Where did your research began in Apulia?

        FL: My first challenge was, along with my students, to try and trace where the Jews migrated to – when they left Apulia… One must keep in mind that by 1400 the Jews in this area were not the descendants of the first Jewish settlers, but rather Jews who had come here later from various places. Some had arrived from Northern Italy, many of them crossed the Adriatic before and after the fall of Byzantium, but the majority had come from Spain. After the 1500’s as the Jews left Apulia, they tended to follow the routes of Sephardic Jews (in flight from Spain and Sicily) and move east toward the Ottoman Empire.  Some of those living on the Adriatic Coast had been in contact with the Venetian Republic. The wealthier ones moved to Venice or to the Venetian  Islands. Corfu was another favorite destination because of its geographical closeness to Apulia and its close ties to Venice.

      • AC: What are more promising areas of study?

        FL: I am fascinated by tracing through manuscripts the movements and linguistic transformations of the Jews of Apulia. For instance trying to figure out who were the local scribes who copied the manuscripts and then looking for similar ones in places like Corfu, Salonika, Istanbul, where we know the Apulians went…. I have attempted to follow these itineraries. The main difficulty lies the fact that in later centuries, coming into contact with Spanish and Ladino speaking Sephardim, the Apulians lost most of their linguistic and cultural specificity.


    • Calabria
    • The first type set Hebrew books in Europe were printed in Reggio by Abraham Garton in 1475.[25] Garton did not use movable type, but used a block page format to print his material. Garton’s works were printed in a Hebrew style known as Rashi Script. Some historians ponder the connection between Garton’s pioneering mass production revolution of Hebrew books and the raise of Ashkenazi prominence in religious scholarship.[26] In the former Jewish quarter of Reggio there is a street named, “Via Ashkenaz”.[27] In addition to the first printed Hebrew book, the first Hebrew commentary on the Hagaddah also appeared in Reggio, in 1482.[28]

      A short-lived revival of the Calabrian Jewish communities began after Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish expulsion arrived in 1492. Another wave of Jewish refugees also arrived in Calabria fleeing from the Expulsion of the Jews from Sicily in 1493.[29][30] And Jews from the island of Sardinia also resettled in Calabria after their expulsion as well.[31] In 1510, the first in a series of Jewish expulsions began in Calabria.[32] The final blow to the Calabrian Jews culminated when the Spanish inquisition at last reached Calabria. By 1541, the Roman Catholic Church ordered the last Jews of Calabria to either leave or to convert to Catholicism.[33] For those who could afford to leave, most went to the Greek[34] cities of Arta,[35] Corfu[36] and Thessaloniki,[37] The Calabrian Jews were a sizable block in

      the Jewish community of Thessaloniki where they constituted four of the 30 synagogues in the city.[38] A Calabrian Jewish Synagogue, which was located in Constantinople is also known.[39] Four hundred years later, the last direct descendants of the Calabrian Jews living in Greece would perish in the Holocaust[40][41]

      As for the rest of Calabrian Jews too poor to emigrate during the Inquisition, they were subjected to a forced conversion, and Jewish houses of worship were converted into churches. For example, the synagogue of Catanzaro was converted to a church dedicated to St. Stefano.[42] The Calabrian converts, many who still secretly practiced Crypto-Judaism, were known in Hebrew as Anusim. Despite their conversion to Catholicism, many converted Jews of Calabria were regularly discriminated against and were forced to live as second class citizens.[43]

      During the Middle Ages, Calabria contributed much to the culture of the Jewish people in Europe. Many Jewish scholars, such as Rabbi Hayyim ben Joseph Vital and descendants of the Isaac Abarbanel were known to have come from or resided in Calabria.[44][45][46] Also, the 15th-century Christian Hebraist, Agathius Guidacerius, a well regarded Greek and Hebrew grammatical expert was born in the Calabrian town of Rocca-Coragio.[47]

      from Wikipedia: The history of the Jews in Livorno (Leghorn in
      English, Liorne or Liorna in Ladino), Italy has been
      documented since 1583, when descendants of the late
      15th-century expulsions from Spain and Portugal settled
      in the city. They were settled initially by Sephardic Jews
      from Pisa. The Jewish community of Livorno, although
      the youngest among the historic Jewish communities of
      Italy, was for some time the foremost: its members
      achieved political rights and wealth, and contributed to
      scholarship in the thriving port city. Numerous Jewish
      schools and welfare institutions were established.

      The first traces of a Jewish settlement are found in documents from about 1583. The Medici family,
      working to promote the growth of the city, its trade, the port, recruited many new settlers from Greece
      and the Ottoman Empire. Spanish Marranos also found a refuge there in 1590. In 1591, and again in
      1593, Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany issued a charter to assure all foreigners
      desiring to settle at Livorno, including Jews, of the most extensive rights and privileges. Many Jews
      were attracted by this promise. The Jewish community of Pisa received the privilege of founding a
      branch at Livorno with a synagogue and cemetery. In 1597, the Jews of Livorno received autonomous
      rights as a community, and they built a synagogue in 1603.h

      The rabbinate of Livorno was widely known for its scholarship, as it attracted new learned members
      from the East, and had connections with the Sephardim of Amsterdam and London. Many merchants
      also devoted themselves to study, taking up medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and the classics.
      Through its connection with the East, Livorno was always a center for cabalists, especially at the time
      of the Shabbethaian controversies. In the 19th century, cabalists and mystics still found support in the
      The Livorno community served as a link between the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and the Eastern
      Sephardi and Mizrahi communities of the Arab Mediterranean nations. It was a clearing house of
      traditions between the two groups. For example, its musical and cantorial tradition, though related to
      those of other Spanish and Portuguese communities, was influenced by Jewish communities all
      around the Mediterranean, to whom in turn the Livorno tradition was exported. Many merchants
      maintained a presence in both Livorno and North African countries such as Tunisia. Those who
      settled permanently in the Ottoman Empire retained their Tuscan or Italian nationality, so as to have
      the benefit of the Ottoman Capitulations. In Tunisia there was a community of Juifs Portugais, or
      L’Grana (Livornese), separate from, and (of course) regarding itself as superior to, the native Tunisian
      Jews (Tuansa).They generally were not
      numerous enough to establish their own synagogues, instead meeting for prayer in each other’s

      Many Jews also emigrated to Algeria, Egypt, France and Libya in order to capitalise on their nations’
      foreign investment. In some cases, such as the Mendoza and the Mosseri family, whole families
      moved, thus contributing to development of Jewish communities in primarily Islamic states.

      from Cecil Roth History of the Jews of Italy –

      1. Jewish population of Kingdom of Naples is approx. 50,000
      2. Jews added lots of tax revenue to community
      3. Many made loans
      4. Hebrew printing press in Naples in 1490s


      1492 – Spanish Expulsion – Jews go to Kingdom of Naples
      – Sicilian Expulsion –
      – Sardinia
      – Abrabanel – prominent Italian Jewish family

      October 26, 1496
      1. Royal edict expelling Jews from Naples
      2. Jews remain for 50 years more but only a remnant

      1. Gonzalo da Cordova, “the Great Captain,” military leader for the King
      2. Helped defend Jews which delayed deportations
      November 19, 1510
      1. Banish all “declared” Jews from Calabria
      2. and Apulia by the new Viceroy Raimando de Cardara
      a. Must leave by March 1, 1511
      b. Must take all possessions with them except gold and silver
      3. 200 Jewish families remained for payment of 3000 ducats per year – WHICH
      4. Marranos (secret Jews) were subject to new inquisition
      1. Many Christians of Jewish stock (Neofiti) were allowed to stay.
      2. In Calabria and Apulia New Christians were living as Jews and maintaining semi-public
      1. The absence of most Jews hurt the economy
      2. Christian lenders charged much higher interest rates on loans which led to
      3. Relaxation of rules against Jewish lenders
      4. Jews allowed back for annual fairs

      May 1541 – Edict of Banishment for Jews
      November 1541
      1. All Jews left
      2. Abrabanels went to Ferrara
      3. Others went to Rome and Papal States
      4. Some to Palestine
      5. Some intercepted by Ragusar pirates and taken prisoner in Marseilles

      Apulians had their own dialect and folk songs
      Calabrian Christians suffered from loss of Jews, especially the poor, still feel effects today.
      1. Exiles from Otanto were numerous enough to maintain a special synagogue in Salonica
      where no section of diaspora was unrepresented
      2. Soncino Family: publishing and printing in Lombardo
      3. Naples Salonica, Constantinople
      4. Literature in fine type
      5. Geronimo (Gershom) Soncino

      1. Salonica supports boycott of Port of Ancona and Constantinople Adrianople by Jewish
      2. Turkish empire absorbed Italian Jewish refugees
      a. Historic Roman rite synagogues in Salonica, Contantinople, and the Italian
      element in the “Four Holy Cities” of Palestine
      1920s-1930s – Fascist Italian consuls at Salonica encourage descendants of Jews from Italy
      many centuries before to apply for or retain Italian Nationality

      From Jews of Italy

      The second half of the 15th century saw Jewish immigration into Apulia from other countries. In
      particular the exiles from Spain and Portugal contributed to a short-lived renascence of Jewish
      learning. Isaac *Abrabanel and others composed notable works while staying in Apulia. When in
      1495 the French king Charles VIII occupied the kingdom of *Naples , however, the Jews of
      Apulia were again persecuted; looting and war levies dissipated their resources within a few
      months. The persecutions resulted in widespread conversions and “New Christians who
      converted since the coming of the French” are mentioned in the laws of 1498 of King Frederick
      of Aragon. After the return of the Aragonese dynasty to Naples the Jews enjoyed a few years of
      security, but the conquest of Naples by the Spaniards was followed by renewed suffering. In
      1510–11 the Jews were expelled from Apulia and the entire kingdom of Naples, only 200
      families being allowed to remain. In 1515 the neofiti were also expelled. The grant of limited
      residential and commercial rights to Jews throughout the Neapolitan provinces in 1520 led to the
      reestablishment of a few communities. A new decree of expulsion issued in 1533 was canceled
      shortly before its implementation, but was reissued and finally promulgated in 1540, obliging all
      Jews to leave Apulia the following year. Apulian Jewry as an historical entity thereby came to an
      end. Some of them migrated to central and northern Italy. Others settled in Constantinople,
      Adrianople, Salonika, Arta, Valona, and Corfu, where they founded separate Pugliese (Apulian;
      Heb. פלייסי ,פוליאסי(congregations. The dialect long spoken by the Jews of Corfu contained

      The only Modiano to have deserved a mention in the 1904 Jewish
      Encyclopaedia15 was a famous rabbi. His name was Joseph Samuel
      Modiano. This is what the Encyclopaedia had to say about him:
      MODIANO, JOSEPH SAMUEL: Turkish rabbinical author; lived in Salonika
      at the end of the eighteenth century. He belonged to a family originally from
      Modena, Italy, the descendants of which are prominent in financial and
      industrial enterprise in Salonika. He corresponded with Hayyim ben David
      Abulafia, rabbi of Smyrna. Modiano published two works – “Uryan Telitai”
      (Salonika, 1795) and “Rosh Mashbir,” responsa (2 vols, 1821 and 1840)
      The former is a collection of novellas on various Talmudic treatises by
      Nahmani, Ibn Migash, Yom-Tob b’Abraham, R’Samuel b’Isaac of Salonika
      (18th cent), and by Modiano himself. The latter work was published
      R’Joseph b’Samuel Modiano came from a line of rabbis whose ancestor had
      moved from Italy to Salonika in the 16th century. His grandfather, R’Joseph
      b’Isaac, after whom he was named, was known as “Modillano”, although in
      those days in Ottoman Salonika, most people had no hereditary surname.
      They usually identified themselves by the name of their father; yet other
      people called them “Modillano” to distinguish them from those who had the
      same given names. The practice of using the father’s name for
      identification was the rule in the Ottoman Empire. It was changed in the
      20th century when the Turks were compelled by law to adopt family
      The evidence of the tombstone inscriptions of Salonika indicates that
      the first Modiliano/Modillano must have settled in that city between
      1500 and 1600.

      20th Century

      From Memorie di Famiglia 2020
      Ideato e curato da Giordana Menasci e Anna Orvieto
      Sami Varsano: the prohibition of mixed marriages; on October 16th
      Sami Varsano's interesting diary takes charge of a period
      rather long storm. Sami was born on 13 April 1910 in Thessaloniki,
      Greece. Through his writing he leaves - he wants to leave to his children and grandchildren, and he succeeds - a detailed picture of his family roots,
      together with the salient episodes that affected his family
      and the lives of those who left after the fire of Thessaloniki for the vault
      of Italy5
      . The testimony analyzes the events in a detailed way
      contemporary historians, as well as Italian events and political changes.
      Following the declaration of war on 10 June 1940, the 20th of
      the same month he was arrested and locked up in the Poggioreale prison, because he was a foreign Jew and stateless. Thanks to the intervention of grandfather Daniele,
      also because of his knowledge, he is released from prison.
      An attentive interlocutor who leaves nothing to chance, in his testimony Varsano reports in a diachronic way many personal facts and those of his friends, as well as his family, who were in France while he
      had decided to stop in Italy to complete his university studies in
      Chemistry. He manages to make up for the economic difficulties animated by one
      5 Sami e la famiglia – insieme ad altre famiglie ebree di Salonicco, come si evince 
      nel diario – si imbarcarono il 3 ottobre 1917 sulla nave italiana Bosforo, diretti a Napoli
      strong will, taking music lessons and doing repetitions, too
      in order to get a position to start a family with Costanza. TO
      due to the promulgation of the racial laws which would have prohibited i
      mixed marriages – Sami is Jewish, Costanza is not – the two ancient engaged couples anticipate their union with respect to the promise made to their father to wait,
      fulfilling their dream and moving – as he reports – without “anyone
      formalities" on 28 August 1938 in a municipal section of Vomero,
      where “in a modest, messy and dusty office we pronounced
      the fateful "yes" and we exchanged rings in front of an officer of the
      civil status ... who read us the articles of the code".
      A few months after the wedding, the little family is forced to clash
      with what the racial laws had caused in the life of the country: “the
      Italians did not even know, until recently, what anti-Semitism meant; very many did not know who the Jews were. We had always lived among others, with others. We had the same flaws
      and the same qualities as others”; so it was natural – he continues – “that the
      majority felt the profound injustice of these persecutions, and
      who expressed, when possible, his sympathy for the persecuted. But the regime wanted tough Italians, so it condemned every form
      of sympathy as reprehensible pietism”. So on November 6, 1938, Sami
      loses his job at the chemical laboratory of the Customs of Trieste,
      regaining it at the end of the conflict, after having suffered the ordeals of
      persecution in which he, Costanza and their children6
       they had to hide, waves
      avoid being rounded up and deported7
      Reads Andrea Bosman son of Francesca Varsano, nephew of Sami
      Searching my memory I might find other details of
      that period, but I prefer to immediately talk about the most salient events
      and, in a sense, more dramatic that followed in 1938. The
      The anti-Semitic campaign spread more and more in the newspapers, increasing the bitterness and anguish in my soul. I couldn't even
      imagine how far it could have gone. There had been an act
      6 Grazia, born in 1939; Elio, born in 1942 and Isabella, born after the end of
      hostility, in 1946. 7 Sami Varsano's unpublished diary is deposited at the Archive Foundation
      National Diary, located in Pieve di Santo Stefano, in Arezzo, and at the Foundation
      CDEC of Milan
      extremely serious official: the Race Manifesto. Some paid university professors, without any dignity, had set up one
      pseudo-scientific statement, asserting, without proving it, the existence of an Italian race to which the Jews were foreign and concluding
      with the need to safeguard its purity.
      Even before going to Venice, during my Sunday trip to Naples, we had decided with Costanza and her family
      to speed things up. Now that there was imminent danger of
      a prohibition on mixed marriages, we needed to get married
      before the end of August. The wedding was set for August 28th.
      I ran to Naples, we made the publications and I returned to Rome.
      No formalities, no pomp. Sunday morning, August 28, 1938, we left the house around 10, Costanza with her parents, me and
      witnesses. On foot we went to the municipal section of Vomero,
      where in a modest, messy and dusty office we pronounced the fateful "yes", we exchanged rings in front of an officer
      of the civil status, distracted and vaporized, who read us the articles of the
      code. We added our signatures followed by those of the witnesses
      and we left there husband and wife after five years of waiting. At home
      we found several “bouquets” of flowers (one delivered from Paris
      from dad, Jacques and Irene), but presents almost nothing. Many came
      telegrams and letters of greetings, still jealously guarded together
      to my letters as a boyfriend.
      I see newspapers on newsstands, in extraordinary editions with headlines
      the provisions of the Grand Council in capital letters. At times I
      takes an accident: the first thing I learned was that all the Jews,
      who had obtained citizenship after 1919, lost it for
      law and were stateless. Therefore they automatically lost
      any state employment or public sector employment. Hiding my anguish, I went to get Costanza. On the way out I told her the news
      of the “tile” falling on our heads. We already had the afternoon
      previously decided to go to the Almansi. We called and there
      they said to go immediately. They were all upset: they lost their jobs
      at the same time his father Dante, Renato and Miecio. … I do not
      I knew what to do. Dante Almansi suggested that I behave as if
      nothing had happened, and to reach Trieste anyway. The provisions of the Grand Council did not have executive value: they had to
      had yet to be translated into state laws and individual decrees had to be subsequently issued. So there was still time.
      The anti-Semitic tide was rising; we blindfolded ourselves and
      we blocked our ears, in the absurd hope of not hearing and not
      to see, waiting for a miracle to happen that we knew was impossible or for fate to be fulfilled. And the fate was fulfilled. One morning, around
      on November 68
      , upon entering the laboratory, the clerk told me that the
      Director wanted me immediately. I thought he wanted to scold me because I usually always arrived a little late. I replied
      that as soon as I took off my coat and put on my lab coat, I would go. They
      he insisted: “No, he must go immediately.” The Director who didn't know how
      to begin, then he showed me a telegram ordering him to do so
      to relieve me from duty immediately. When he said goodbye to me he had tears in his eyes
      eyes. “What will he do now?” - "I do not know". I took my personal stuff and
      I went back to retirement. I found Costanza combing her hair in front of the
      mirror. She asked in amazement “What is it? You forgot something?"
      – “I lost my job”. ... For a few days I went around to see
      if there was a possibility of finding a job. However, these were public bodies or private companies who were afraid to speak to a Jew
      outcast. On the other hand, they had also started a campaign in the newspapers
      against “pietism”. The Italians didn't know, until recently
      before, not even what anti-Semitism meant; very many did not know who the Jews were. We had always lived among others, with
      the others. … It was therefore natural that the majority felt the profound injustice of these persecutions, and that they expressed when
      it was possible, his sympathy for the persecuted. But the regime wanted it
      tough Italians, therefore he condemned every form of sympathy as reprehensible pietism. Fear then did the rest.
      Law Sofia Bosman daughter of Francesca Varsano, granddaughter of Sami Var sano
      On the morning of October 16th I went to Testaccio and was already on my way
      I had noticed something unusual: groupings, whispers, glances
      oblique at every step.
      At the butcher's I hear two women and the shopkeeper talking and telling what was happening and what had happened during the night
      to the poor "Jews". Everyone told about things they had seen: soldiers
      breaking down the doors of the houses and pushing everyone out with the butts of their rifles,
      men, women, old people, children, sick, without any distinction
      and then load them onto trucks and take them away. My blood runs cold. Not
      I buy nothing and quickly return to the Pyramid Station
      8 1938
      Photo Caption: Sami Varsano on the ship "Butterfly" from Mogadishu to Naples, 13 December 1936 (courtesy of the Varsano family)

      Professor Samuele “Sami” Varsano is a chemist, mathematician, and nuclear physicist. Speaking at the University of Rome, 1959 Professor Sami Varsano and scientist Emilio Ascarelli discussed their theory of the “vortex” or “of rotating space.” After 20 years of research, the theory was published in February of 1958 in Chimica magazine. Further experimental scrutiny would be needed to reinforce the theory.

      The songs were extracted from Sami Varsano's unpublished diary, written in 1977
      Music by Sami Varsano
      Kaddish was originally a formula for closing meetings
      study or prayer in which the greatness of God was exalted and yes
      it expressed the hope of a rapid advent of the Messiah.
      In later times the Kaddish was also recited by the people in
      mourning, who found in it expressions and reasons for consolation and
      The orphan who recites the Kaddish must know that this prayer is valid as public recognition by the son of merits.
      of his father, who knew how to educate him to observe the rules of the
      Torah and the principles of Judaism. And the public response “Let it be the
      His great blessed name (Yeè Shemè Rabbà Mevarach), will therefore take on a double meaning: it will not be addressed only to God, but
      also to the memory of the deceased loved one.
      The Kaddish remains in the Jewish liturgy the prayer of sanctification of the Name of God. It is a prayer which, recited with love and
      veneration over the centuries, has always emphasized the will
      of the Jewish people to keep alive their characteristic and essential dialogue with God
      Translated From Hebrew:
      May His great name be magnified and sanctified, in the world that
      He created according to His will, His Kingdom come during
      your life, your existence and that of all the people of Israel,
      soon and in the shortest time.
      May His great name be blessed for all eternity. Praised be he,
      glorified, raised, elevated, magnified, celebrated, commended, the name of the Holy Benedict.
      May he be, above every blessing, song, celebration, and with solace that we pronounce in this world.
      May abundant peace and a happy life descend upon us from heaven
      over all the people of Israel.
      May He who makes peace reign in the highest heavens, in His infinite mercy grant it to us and to all the people of Israel. And so be it.
      After the fire in Salonika, many Jews who came to this city took refuge in Naples
      S. Varsano examined the community records and his data is reported in full by Professor Giura. Registration in the community having not been made compulsory in 1935
      55 names from Salonica and 125 Sephardic Jews represented a signficant portion of the Jewish population of Naples. Prominent Jewish Families from Salonica were included in this group Abrabanel and Naar - Coffee, Modiano - Oriental rugs, Beraha - medical and dental equipment, Bivash - hosiery, Benusiglio -knitwear, Gattegno -ties, and medical doctor Moshe Modiano