Known since the 8th century as a castle, Empoli boasts ancient and refined origins. Evidence of this is the pleasant historic town center gathered around Piazza Farinata degli Uberti, overlooked by the Palazzo Ghibellino, home of the Museo Civo di Paleontologia (Civic Museum of Paleontology) and the Archivio Storico Comunale (Municipal Historical Archives), the Palazzo Pretorio and the beautiful Collegiata di Sant'Andrea.
The present appearance of the Collegiata, already mentioned in a document from the year 780, dates back to 1093. The façade in bichromatic marble marks the western limit of the spread of Florentine Romanesque in the territory. Attached to the church is the Museo della Colleggiata di Sant’Andrea (Museum of the Collegiate Church of Sant’Andrea), one of the oldest ecclesiastical exhibitions in Italy, where authentic masterpieces of Tuscan art from the 14th-16th centuries can be admired. From the impressive Battistero (Baptistery), where all the frescoes are gathered (one is by Masolino) and for which the imposing baptismal font attributed to Bernardo Rossellino was carved, one passes into the sculpture room (where works by Tino di Camaino and Mino da Fiesole can be admired). On the upper floor is the Pinacoteca, where works from Florentine workshops working between the 14th and 15th centuries are displayed, including the two triptychs by Lorenzo Monaco, the small Maestà by Filippo Lippi, and works by Antonio Rossellino and Botticini. The Museum tour ends in the upper part of the cloister with some works by Della Robbia.
Another church that cannot be missed in the center of Empoli is that of Santo Stefano (dating from the 14th century) and the adjoining Convento degli Agostiniani, home of the Biblioteca Comunale Renato Fucini (Renato Fucini Municipal Library). The interior of the church contains important remains of frescoes by Masolino da Panicale, a marble Annunciation by Bernardo Rossellino and valuable paintings from 17th-century Tuscany. In the nearby Piazza della Vittoria stands the Museo Casa di Ferruccio Busoni (Ferruccio Busoni House Museum), a well-known pianist and composer born in Empoli in 1866, to whom a museum and study center are dedicated.
Not far from the town center is the hamlet of Pontorme, the birthplace of the well-known painter Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo (1494-1556). At the center of the hamlet is the artist's birthplace, where the facsimile edition of the Diary and copies of the preparatory drawings for the panels with St. John the Evangelist and St. Michael the Archangel, kept in the nearby Church of San Michele, are on display. The work, executed in 1519, contributes to Jacopo's definition as one of the exponents of the "modern manner." The birthplace also preserves, received on loan by the Florentine Superintendent, the Madonna del Libro (Madonna of the Book) - an early copy of a painting by Pontormo still unknown in its original drafting to this day.