Arena sets off on trip of a lifetime to Italy

Stephen Arena of Shelton is one of 20 students from across the country and one of three students from Connecticut, that were selected for the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program'  trip to Italy which began today, June 9.
The students will tour and interact with locals in Turin or Torino, Italy with the opportunity to sight see and visit local museums as well as explore on their own.

Arena said as he wrote his essay that helped judges to decide whether or not he would be selected as one of the 20 traveling students, he prepared for the best summer experience of his life. Three university students who reside in Connecticut will participate in the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program, an all-expenses-paid educational and cultural initiative that sends Italian American students to Italy. The students are: Stephen Arena of Shelton; Marisa Mitrano of West Hartford; and Nicole Valente of Old Saybrook.

“All expenses paid and the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country while immersing myself in a new culture… This is the chance of a lifetime,” said Arena.

As a first time traveler outside of the United States, other than a trip to Aruba with friends, Arena said he is excited to get out of his comfort zone and learn more about the Italian culture.

He said he’s taken four years of the language while he attended Shelton High, and since graduating from Boston College in May, he is excited for the opportunity to brush up on some of his skills.

Stephen is eager to explore a completely new place and experience what Italy has to offer. He looks forward to seeing Italy’s history firsthand, its unique towns in addition to learning more about Italy’s contribution to the world.

With previous experience studying Italian in high school and being a member of his high school’s Italian Club, he is thrilled to observe the culture outside of a classroom setting as well as interact with natives.

Sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), the tour will visit Italy’s Piemonte region, NIAF’s 2016 Region of Honor, from June 9 to June 23.

For the fourth consecutive year, participants will give back to the Italian community.  This year, the students will work with school children under the care of the Salesians of Don Bosco at the Mother House, known as Valdocco, in the city of Torino. This NIAF travel program’s benefactor is a member of the Occhienna family, the mother of Saint Don Bosco.  Ambassador Peter F. Secchia’s father is a descendent of the Occhienna family.

“The Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program affords these young adults an incredible opportunity to further understand the historical significance of Italy and its many contributions to the United States and to the world. The bond these students forge with each other and with Italy will increase their interest in preserving their shared heritage,” said Anita Bevacqua McBride, co-chair of the Foundation’s scholarships and grants committee.

“We are so proud that we are able to offer such a program to young Italian American students. This cornerstone program of the Foundation will strengthen their understanding of their rich culture as they experience the land of their ancestors for the very first time in their lives,” said Gabriella Mileti, NIAF director of programs.

Now in its 17th year, the 14-day program begins with a walking tour of Torino, the first capital of modern Italy.

In Torino, the group will visit La Reggia Venaria, one of the residences of the Royal Savoy Family; the Basilica of Superga, the burial place of the Savoy Family; Palazzo Reale, the royal seat of Duke Emanuele Filberto in 1563; and the National Museum of Cinema. The first evening will include a dinner with members of the NIAF Board of Directors at a local agriturismo, a working farmhouse.

The itinerary includes: tours of the Martini and Rossi factory and museum in Asti, one of the renowned centers of wine production; the Borsalino factory, known for its fedoras; and the famed chocolatier Ferrero factory in Alba, home of the white truffle, “tartufo bianco.” Visits to the historic towns Acqui Terme, Alessandria and Neive are also part of the tour. In Nieve, students will visit a 17th century winery “La Cantina del Glicine.”  During the program, students will gather to watch Italy play against Ireland, Sweden and Belgium in the Euro Cup 2016.  The students also will participate in an excursion on Lake Maggiore to explore Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori.

NIAF is proud to administer the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program which includes round-trip airfare between the United States and Italy, accommodations, meals, guided tours and on the ground transportation. For more information, visit

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the heritage of Italian Americans. Visit

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