On that morning of 1424 Masolino began
his new job in the baptistery of the Collegiata di Sant’Andrea: the Cristo
in Pietà, which can now be seen in the adjacent Museum. He
paused on the threshold of the Church of Santo Stefano degli Agostiniani, where
he had recently completed the cycle in the Compagnia della Croce. He thought he
felt, held in the devote treasure chests of that city, the pulsating languor of
the marble flesh surrounding San Sebastiano by a certain
Rossellino, the elegant composure of Jacopo da Empoli, which would go on to adorn
the Church of S. Maria a Ripa, as well as the very museum of religious
art of the Collegiata, the tormented passion of Pontormo, who in his
birthplace painted the priceless altar pieces in the Church of S. Michele
Arcangelo, a short distance from his childhood home.
“Belltower-ism” is a serious thing in Tuscany! Want an example of this civic pride? Take, for instance, the Volo del Ciuco, which takes place every year in Empoli on the occasion of Corpus Domini, remembering the conquest of San Miniato by the Empolesi in 1397: a donkey-shaped puppet is thrown off the belltower of the famous Collegiata down to the piazza below.
In Empoli music is front and centre everywhere and anytime! The Pia Corale Santa Cecilia and Centro Studi Musicali Ferruccio Busoni begin the autumn concert season, followed by a series of concerts as late as the summer. It’s worth naming them one by one, beginning with Parole e Musica nei Musei, in which art and music come together in the city’s museums. Empoli Musica: the big spring showcase featuring music schools from all over Tuscany. Empoli Jazz Summer Festival: starring top names in the world of jazz playing in the Torrione Santa Brigida gardens and the original Opera in Piazza at the end of July. The Parco di Serravalle hosts the Beat Festival in August: contemporary sound, street food and plenty of greenery for everyone! Then there’s Nottissima, a late night of culture, and things come to a close with INBANDA!, the autumn street band event.
If you’re at the Glass Museum and
someone behind you exclaims “Mother in law and daughter in law! It
was used to serve oil and vinegar!" while you’re looking at a vial, don’t worry. If these shapes
surprise you it just means that you’re not originally from Empoli, where
someone in every family has worked in the glass factories. So many people have
worked surrounded by greenery here, the colour of labour and hard work.
Today these spacious places are open to take that greenery symbolically by the hand and to connect city and country as was the case once upon a time in glassworks. The Arnovecchio Nature Park, the major Parco urbano di Serravalle Urban, a short distance from the bustling town, and the Torre dei Sogni above Villanova are all places that promise love that transcends generations.