Torah in Italy
The Italian Jewish community predates the Common Era—there was contact between Jews in Rome with the Kings of Israel while the Second Temple stood. Following the destruction of the Second Temple, Italy was the first established center for Torah learning in the Diaspora outside Babylonia. It was the preeminent location for Torah scholarship during the early Middle Ages, after the decline of the Babylonian academies.
Today, we have no Torah or Talmud commentaries from early Italian scholars, but others mentioned their high reputation. As you will read in a moment, Italian Rabbis helped establish Torah academies in the Sephardic lands, and there is a similar story of a Rabbi from Lombardy who moved to Germany and brought advanced Torah scholarship along with him. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki of France, of whom you will read more in Chapter 11, consulted with the academy of Rome on a question of Jewish law, and records the opinion of Rabbi Klonimos of Rome in his Talmud commentary.
Torah study in Italy advanced in later centuries thanks to expulsions of Jews living elsewhere. In the fifteenth century, an influx of German Jews led to the establishment of a full Ashkenazic community there, as well as at least one school of Torah. Don Yitzchak Abarbanel helped lead the exodus from Spain in 1492, and with other Spanish Jews brought Italy again to the fore among centers for Torah study.