Piazza Farinata degli Uberti is the ideal starting point for those who wish to view Empoli’s historical downtown area. There, you will see various architectural symbols including the Collegiate building dedicated to Saint Andrew and the Palazzo della Podestà, which once hosted the city’s rulers.
The Palazzo Ghibellino is also worthy of note; it was named for a Ghibelline convention that was hosted there in 1260.
Today, it is the headquarters of the Civic Palaeontology Museum. From the church’s right-hand transept, you can enter into a sixteenth century cloister characterized by austere Tuscan columns. On the left side of the corridor, you’ll find a door that leads to the Collegiate Museum, the most important venue in the city. In the center of the square, you’ll find a marble fountain featuring three naiads, supported by two pairs of lions which sustain a circular basin.
Once you leave the central square, you’ll get to Via del Papa, one of the fundamental streets to visit when taking a tour of Empoli. Here, you will find many buildings and shops that represent Empoli’s mercantile culture.
Two of the most important buildings in the area are Palazzo Scarlini and the Palazzo Comunale; the latter hosts the Gallery of Modern Art and the Resistance. The Palazzo Comunale dates back to the sixteenth century, as one can see from its prelate seal. This building forms one of the four sides of Piazza del Popolo, whose construction in 1933 saw the destruction of an entire district which once hosted the city’s Jewish community. Near the church of Santo Stefano degli Agostiniani on Via Santo Stefano, you’ll find an immense convent which was built in the mid XIV century. Its elegant sixteenth century cloister and ancient refectory are especially noteworthy. Near the convent, you’ll find the Municipal Library dedicated to Renato Fucini; its construction began in 1845 and was completed at the end of the last century.
As you continue down the Via del Papa, you’ll find a small square called ‘Delle Stoviglie, which was a fodder market in the 1800s, before becoming a market for tablewear. Today, it serves as the main entrance to the eighteenth century ‘Spedale di San Giuseppe’ which was built from 1746 to 1765. At the intersection between Via del Papa and Via Cosimo Ridolfi, you’ll see a somber stone tabernacle from the eighteenth century, which depicts Christ on the cross. Via Ridolfi was once full of seventeenth and eighteenth century palaces; today only Palazzo Ricci remains standing. On the Via del Giglio—a street that was named after an old tavern once located here—one can see old-style artisan houses, characterized by their high, narrow style. An interesting medieval alley can be found just off the Via del Giglio, called the ‘Vicolo della Gendarmeria’, which is where the Imperial Gendarmerie was housed during the Napoleonic period (1808-1814). This alley links Via del Giglio to Via Chiara; on the eastern side, you’ll find the Church and Conservatory of the Santissima Annunziata, which was built in 1630 and entirely rebuilt after World War II.
A walk through Empoli’s historical center will most probably bring you to Piazza Garibaldi, where visitors can view the remains of the fifteenth century gateway Porta Pisa, which was semi-destroyed during the war. Opposite the gateway, you’ll see the small church of Sant’Antonio Abate, built in 1583 and renovated in 1610.
Source: Muncipality of Empoli (Culture Office)