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Overview of Empoli

Empoli is a high interesting mid-sized town, lying on the green and prosperous plain located nearby the left bank of the Arno River, at 30 kilometres to the southwest of Florence. 
Empoli is noted throughout Italy, furthermore than for its significant artistic and cultural heritage, for being a busy town fitted with very important industrial activities, due to its traditional and celebrate glass and crystal factories, and to its key fashion, leather, food, wooden, and mechanical manufacturing, without having never left aside its rich agricultural and craft roots, which turns it also into a main market town. In addition, Empoli is a friendly town with a busy shopping area. The town is as well noted throughout Italy for its traditional busy nightlife, which reaches its high point during the so called “Lights of the Town”,  which took place every year along the whole month of July. The principal shops in the town open until midnight and a lot of open-air activities are held after-hours, like cinema exhibitions, music shows and concerts, as well as theatre performances, turning the town centre into a lively place to spend some amuse holidays.     

The fascinating history of Empoli starts with the Etruscans, who were the first inhabitants of its area, but the town really flourished with the Roman civilization, as it was strategically positioned between Via Quinctia, the ancient road which connected Florence, Fiesole and Pisa, and Via Salaiola, running to Volterra where the ancient salt refineries were placed.
The old roman town of Emporium became in 1119 a fief of the Counts of Guidi, who in the following year enclosed the town into a belt of thick fortified walls, changing it into an impregnable citadel. Because of the important strategic position of the fortress, Florence tried until 1182 to take possession of it, but after a series of failed attempts the Guidi family was obliged to swear allegiance to the Florentine Republic. In 1255 Florence purchased from the Guidi Counts the mayor part of the Empoli area, acquiring then the rest part, thus the citadel was annexed to the Florentine territorial jurisdiction.
In September 1260 - after the defeat of the Florentine Republic, essentially ruled by the Guelph party, in the Battle of Monteaperti, fought against the Ghibellines Sienese and Pisan troops captained by the celebrated Manente degli Uberti (nicknamed “Farinata” by his relatives and friends) who was born in Florence from an aristocratic Ghibelline family- was held in the citadel the historic Ghibelline Council of Empoli, in which the victorious Ghibellines voted in favour of razing Florence to the ground, as they wanted to ensure that the Guelphs would not come up anymore to oppress them, but Manente degli Uberti, who had been the architect of the victory, was the only one who stood out against them, proclaiming that Florence was overall his fatherland. Before all the members of the Council he drew his sword and gave his word that he would defend the city of Florence with the same courage and faithfulness that he had always defended the Ghibelline cause. On June 24th 1844 was set in the Piazzale degli Uffizi, in Florence, a beautiful sculpture devoted to Farinata degli Uberti, created by the prestigious Roman sculpture Francesco Pozzi.
In 1333 the fortified walls of the citadel were pulled down by an overflowing of the Arno River, being subsequently reconstructed.
In 1529, during the siege of Florence by the Spanish Imperial troops of Charles I of Spain and V of Germany, supported by Pope Clement VII, born Giulio de Medici, to re-establish there the Medici monarchy, the Republic of Florence designated the Florentine patriot Francesco Ferrucci commander-in-chief of the external troops of the Republic, with seat in the proximities of Empoli. Though Empoli had been besieged in 1530, Ferrucci, with less than 300 men, was able to safeguard the key fortresses of San Miniato and Volterra. In addition, the citizens of Empoli and Ferrucci’s men offered all the time a heroic resistance to the besieger Imperial troops, but Francesco Ferrucci was betrayed for money by two of his captains, Guigni and Orlandini, who opened two of the citadel gates to the enemy troops, who sacked and destroyed Empoli.   
To commemorate the extraordinary resistance of Empoli and its surrounding area, the talented Tuscan artist Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) depicted the terrible event in an imposing fresco hosted in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.   
In 1777 Empoli was taken by the French troops who stayed in the town until May 1799, when a riot led by the citizens broke out. The great magnitude of the insurrection, known as “Viva Maria”, forced-out the invading troops.
During Mussolini’s regime the progressive citizens of Empoli underwent into a hard and continuous repression. On December 1943 the beautiful town was ruthlessly bombed by the allied army, dying more than 100 people, while in July 1944 the German army of occupation in Italy executed publicly 30 simple citizens, attempting to demoralize the antifascist groups who were active in the town and in the neighbouring area. When the IIWW was over, Empoli was almost in ruins, but its complete reconstruction started at once.

For more information about monuments and restaurants in Empoli click here

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