Overview of Empoli Main Monuments and Restaurants
- Piazza Farinata degli Uberti: the splendid arcaded square, also known as Piazza dei Leoni (Square of the Lions) is the hub of Empoli’s historical centre. In the middle of the square is standing the gorgeous neoclassical Fontana dei Leoni from 1827. It was designed and carved by the prestigious Florentine sculptor Luigi Pampaloni. The square is overlooked by wonderful mediaeval buildings, some of which are the most important edifices in the town:
- Collegiata di Sant’ Andrea: the imposing Romanesque church was mentioned for the first time in a document from the end of the 8th century, but the construction of the present religious site started in 1093. The church has a striking white and green marble façade. The upper part of the façade and the indoors of the church were significantly enlarged and modified in the third decade of the 18th century by the eminent Florentine architect Ferdinando Ruggeri (1690 ca.-1740). After the IIWW the Collegiata was faithfully rebuilt.
- The Museum of the Collegiata di Sant’Andrea (Closed on Monday. Entrance ticket: 5 €.) The museum is located behind the Collegiata. It is one of the oldest municipal museums in Tuscany, inaugurated in 1859. It hosts a superb collection of religious art mainly coming from the 14th and the 15th centuries. The most remarkable works are: a wonderful marble baptismal font by the illustrious Florentine sculptor and painter Bernardo Rossellino (1404-1464); an impressing “Pietà” frescoed by the brilliant Umbrian painter Masolino da Panicale (byname of Tommaso di Cristoforo Fini, 1383-1440); a marvellous wooden sculpture representing St. Stephen, carved by the prestigious Sienese sculptor Francesco di Valdambrino (1363-1435); a delicate and small “Madonna” painted by the talented Florentine artist Fra Filippo Lippi (1406 ca.- 1469) and a gorgeous “Madonna dell’Umiltà e Santi” painted by the great Tuscan artist Lorenzo Monaco (byname of Piero di Giovanni, 1370 ca.-1425).
- Palazzo Ghibellino: It was the former residence of the Counts of Guidi. The imposing palace was built in the 11th century and completely restored in the 16th century. In September 1260, after the famous Battle di Monteaperti, it became the seat of the Ghibelline Council of Empoli, where the fate of the defeated Guelph city of Florence was determined. It is believed that without the generous and valiant contribution of Manente (“Farinata”) degli Uberti, who stopped the Ghibelline decision of destroying Florence, Empoli would become the capital city of Tuscany. Nowadays the palace is the site of the Town Archives.
- The Church of Santo Stefano: The beautiful late 14th church is standing nearby Piazza Farinata degli Uberti. It houses several outstanding artworks, like the white marble statue representing the “Annunciation of the Holy Virgin”, sculptured by Bernardo Rossellino, as well as some wonderful frescoes by Masolino da Panicale.
Close to the church stands the 16th imposing Agustinian Convent, with a wonderful cloister, which is currently the site of many of the main art exhibitions in the town.
- The Busoni Museum (Piazza della Vittoria. Closed on Monday. Free Entrance).
This is one of the main museums in the town, located nearby the Church of Santo Stefano. The museum was the birth house of the famous musician Ferruccio Busoni (Empoli, 1866 - Berlin, 1924). It is completely devoted to the life and work of the composer, as well as the site of a prestigious centre of musical research.
Every year, from October to December, Empoli is the place of the worldwide celebrated “Giornate Busoniane”, consisting of a series of important concerts devoted to the composer, which are held in the Excelsior and Shalom theatres.
- The Tower of Santa Brigida: The imposing 15th tower is located between the ancient walls of the former citadel, from which long stretches can still be seeing. The tower represents the past military importance of Empoli, due to the numerous defensive towers which were joined to the massive walls of the citadel.
- The Church of Santa Maria a Ripa. This beautiful Franciscan church, from the late 16th century is placed in Empoli’s western edge, nearby the road leading to the city of Livorno.
Its splendid indoors hosts several artworks and some masterpieces, among which: some wonderful glaced terracottas, coming from the Della Robbia’s workshop; an outstanding panel from the celebrated Florentine painter Giovanni Antonio Sogliani (1492-1544), representing the “Immaculate Conception” ; an impressive canvas, representing “Jesus Christ carrying the Cross”, painted by the well-known Tuscan artist Ottavio Vannini (1585-1643) and the amazing “Allegory of the Immaculate Conception” by the early Baroque famous painter Jacopo Chimenti da Empoli (1551-1640), whose father was born in Empoli.
- The Parish Church of San Michele in Pontorme. The impressive Romanesque church is standing in Pontorme, formerly a beautiful village and at present a district of Empoli situated at a short distance from the town centre. The ancient village was the birth place of the famous painter Jacopo Carrucci “Il Pontormo” (1494-1556). The right transept of the church hosts two gorgeous panels by “Il Pontormo” representing S. Giovanni Evangelista and S. Michele Arcangelo, which date from 1519 ca.
Where to eat:
Among the very good restaurants and pizzerias placed in the town, we suggest you:
- Ristorante “Il Galeone” (Via Curtatone e Montanara, 67). It is a beautiful restaurant, offering a top selection of fish and seafood dishes. Wine list is exceptional.
A full meal is over 50 €.
- Ristorante “Cafè dell’Accademia” (Via del Gelsomino, 28). It is a formal and pretty restaurant, offering some delicious meat, fish and vegetables specialties. Homemade desserts are a must. Wine list is excellent.
A full meal is about 40/50 €.
- Ristorante “Bianconi” (Via Roma, 31). It is a well-known restaurant with a pretty terrace for meals in season. Its cuisine is based on local traditional recipes. Entrances, grilled meat and homemade pasta with vegetables are not to be missed. Wine list is as ample as first-rate.
A full meal is around 35/45 €.
- Trattoria - Ristorante “Da Cioffi” (338, v. Val d’Orme). Is a popular and large restaurant, located at a short distance from Empoli, with a charming rustic ambience. Its superb beefsteaks, its first-rate local vegetables and its homemade pasta with mushrooms are well-known all along the area. Local wines selection is very good.
A full meal is about 30/40 €.
- Ristorante-Pizzeria “Zenzero” (Via Paladini, 8/10). It is a cool and large both restaurant and pizzeria, located in the town centre. It offers tasteful grilled meat and fish dishes and a delicious variety of pizzas. Local wines are good.
A full meal is around 25/35 €.
For more information about Empoli click here
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