Empoli is a pretty town on the border between the provinces of Florence and Pisa. It is located in the Val d’Elsa, in an area rich in places of interest. The capital of the union of Empolese Valdelsa municipalities, Empoli is located in an area bounded by the Arno and Elsa rivers; a short distance from the inhabited centre, however, we are already in the open countryside, where it is possible to lose oneself amidst the beautiful hilly panoramas typical of Tuscany.
The city, inhabited by almost 50,000 inhabitants, is compact and its historic centre is pleasant to visit; moreover, it is an excellent base from which to explore the beautiful surroundings. Empoli is in fact equipped with all services, including many bars and restaurants, but also shops, shopping centres, cinemas and discos: there really is something for all tastes, and your stay in the city will prove to be truly enjoyable.
The centre of Empoli is located in the immediate surroundings of Piazza Farinata degli Uberti, known to everyone as Piazza dei Leoni. Some of the city’s main monuments can be found here, and the main shopping streets also branch off from here.
Empoli’s main church, the Collegiate Church of Sant’Andrea, is located in the historic centre, and is built in Florentine Romanesque style, with a Baroque interior. The church we see today was built at the end of the 19th century, although a building of worship already existed from the 12th century.
On the outside, the façade of the collegiate church of Sant’Andrea bears numerous geometric inlays on a white Carrara marble background, in the style of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence or the basilica of San Miniato al Monte, also in Florence. Inside, the church has a single nave, with five chapels on each side; the ceiling is completely painted with an imposing work by two early post-war painters from Empoli, while it is worth stopping to observe the 14th-century crucifix located in the first chapel, made of wood and believed to be miraculous because it interrupted the plague epidemic in the city at the end of the 14th century.
Next to the church there is also a museum. This is the art gallery museum of the collegiate church of St Andrew, where a series of sacred works that were once located within the church premises are exhibited alongside numerous other paintings and sculptures from churches in the surrounding area. Among the masterpieces to be admired is a marble sculpture by Giovanni Pisano representing the Madonna and Child and dated 1280, and the beautiful Madonna Enthroned among angels and saints by Filippo Lippi.
Outside the ancient walls of Empoli, in Piazza della Vittoria, is the sanctuary of the Madonna del Pozzo, dating back to the 18th century. It is a small church, surrounded by a portico on three sides covered by cross vaults and supported by columns.
The interior of the church has a single nave, covered with a barrel vault, in the middle of which are two side altars, while at the back is the pipe organ. There is a beautiful fresco above the altar, dating back to the 15th century and depicting the Madonna with Child and four saints, which was originally painted in the tabernacle that existed well before the church, and was later moved inside.
The heart of Empoli’s historical centre is Piazza Farinata degli Uberti, on which there are numerous interesting buildings. To the east is the collegiate church of Sant’Andrea, to the west is the Conti Guidi palace, and to the south is the imposing Palazzo Pretorio.
The square is very beautiful, and there is also an elegant 19th-century fountain, the Fountain of the Naiads, or of the Lions; the other houses that overlook it are built in typical Tuscan style, and the ground floor is formed by porticoes. The square is also overlooked by Palazzo Ricci, where Giuseppe Garibaldi appeared in 1867 during his presence in the city, when he gave a speech to the population.
Immediately outside Empoli’s 16th-century walls is Piazza della Vittoria, one of the locals’ favourite places to meet and socialise, day and night. It is a beautiful rectangular square, at the centre of which stands the bronze statue of the goddess Victory, erected in honour of the fallen soldiers of the First World War in 1925.
It is in this square that the sanctuary of the Madonna del Pozzo is located, as well as the former home of Ferruccio Busoni, where the famous Italian composer, one of Italy’s greatest piano geniuses, was born. Today, Busoni’s house is a museum, displaying photos, autographs and posters of the maestro. There is also a piano, donated by the family. The ground floor of the building also houses the Ferruccio Busoni Music Study Centre, where an archive and library specialising in 20th-century music have been set up.
Inside Palazzo Ghibellino, located in Piazza Farinata degli Uberti, is the civic museum of palaeontology, where exhibits documenting more than two billion years of our planet’s history are on display.
On display are rocks, logs and fossils from all over the world, many of which are part of the private collections of the Palaeontological and Mineralogical Group of Empoli. The itinerary is divided into five thematic rooms, respectively dedicated to geological eras, Earth sciences, the Tuscan Pliocene, the palaeoenvironmental evolution of the Valdarno, and the hominisation, i.e. the appearance and evolution of man on Earth.
Jacopo Carucci, or Jacopo da Pontormo, was one of the most important Florentine painters of the 16th century. Many art enthusiasts, however, do not know that he was born in Pontorme, which today is a district of Empoli not far from the centre; here, the house where the artist was born was purchased by the municipality in 1995, shortly after celebrating the 500th anniversary of his birth. After a restoration that lasted 11 years, it was opened to the public in 2006.
Today, it is possible to admire Pontormo’s ancient medieval house thanks to a route that winds its way through the three floors, leading visitors to take a closer look at some reproductions of drawings and paintings, and of the Diario, or Libro mio, the original of which is kept at the National Library in Florence.
The house where Pontormo was born also houses the educational section of the Cultural Heritage of Empoli.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
In the historical centre of Empoli there are a handful of flats and B&Bs, ideal for those who want to sleep close to the monuments and main city points of interest. There are also a number of places to sleep near the station, especially on the south side of the railway; again, these are mostly flats or rooms to let, and small family-run B&Bs, with the exception of a hotel located right in front of the station building.
These structures are perfect for sleeping close to Empoli, its services and all that the city has to offer, but if you prefer to move to the countryside to experience your Tuscan holiday like in a film, then just leave the town a few kilometres to the north or south. You will find yourself in front of bucolic landscapes, where agritourisms, country houses, villas and farms abound, where you can spend wonderful holidays of relaxation and tranquillity, surrounded by marvellous landscapes.
Empoli is really easy to reach, since it is served by three exits of the SGC FI-PI-LI highway, called Empoli Est, Empoli and Empoli Ovest.
In particular, the centre of Empoli is a little more than half an hour’s drive from Florence, which can be reached by taking the SGC FI-PI-LI to the Empoli Est junction, the first one encountered coming from the Tuscan capital. You arrive in the centre along Via Viaccia, the Empoli Est slip road and Via Piovola, until you reach Via Luigi Cherubini and Via Renato Fucini.
From Pisa or Livorno , on the other hand, it takes less than 50 minutes to get to Empoli: once again, it is sufficient to enter the SGC FI-PI-LI, taking care, however, to exit at the Empoli junction.
The distance separating Empoli from Siena, on the other hand, is 85 kilometres, which can be covered in about one hour and 15 minutes by taking the Firenze-Siena motorway junction heading north to the San Casciano in Val di Pesa exit, then continuing along the SP12 road, which connects the motorway junction to the FI-PI-LI, entering at Ginestra Fiorentina and exiting at Empoli Est.
Getting to Empoli by public transport, finally, is very easy and even quicker than by car. The city is in fact located along the Florence-Pisa railway, and trains are very frequent. From Firenze Santa Maria Novella they leave approximately every 20 minutes, and the journey time varies between 25 and 30 minutes. From Pisa Centrale the journey is also very short, taking less than 40 minutes. After getting off the train, just cross Piazza Don Minzoni and walk along Via Roma, and in just over 5 minutes you are already in Piazza della Vittoria.
What's the weather at Empoli? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Empoli for the next few days.