An accordion player in the shade of the balcony-lined street, serenading the strolling pedestrians; an artist working on a canvas in charcoals, chatting with folks stopping in the street to admire his creativity. These were modern elements of our experience visiting the town of Lecce to appreciate the antiquities of its Roman and Baroque architecture. We also experienced local flavors, as we had time to visit cafes offering rustico pastries and sweet Caffè Leccese, made with coffee, ice and almond. For the afternoon, we strolled the city of Otranto. We admired the impressive mosaic tile floors of the great Cathedral and the chapel of the 800 martyrs — a building that has served in many roles over the years, including as a horse stable for a period of time.
Today we awoke to a full moon glimmering over the water as we headed toward the port of Amalfi — situated on the south side of the Sorrentine peninsula that separates the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno. This stretch of southern Italy is characterized by spectacular limestone cliffs, valleys, and ravines which plunge into the sea. The natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast has made it a popular destination for European travelers since the 18th century. Like much of the Mediterranean coastline, Amalfi has a long history of settlement. There are remains of Roman-era villas in the area, and it was within the Duchy of Naples during the Byzantine period. Eventually, Amalfi became an independent republic ruled by merchant families who controlled the maritime trade routes across the Mediterranean in the 9th and 10th centuries. Amalfi was the early leader in a trade war that would later be dominated by the likes of Pisa and Venice. We went ashore for a walking tour through the old town, which is bordered on either side by sheer cliffs. Many narrow alleyways wind throughout the town beneath multistory buildings. Many staircases emanate from the central valley up toward residences built high above — Amalfi is truly mountain goat territory. We visited Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, a stunning example of Norman-Arab-Byzantine architecture which features a crypt with many colored marbles and beautiful frescoes. After returning to the Sea Cloud we were treated to a hearty meal of Italian cuisine — local seafood and the pasta wheel! We raised anchor and cruised along the coastline to the amazing Isle of Capri. In the evening we enjoyed the farewell cocktail hour, guest slideshow, and capped everything off with the Captain’s Farewell Dinner.