(AGI) Rome, 3 Oct - Personalities who worked to strengthen the relations between Italy and the US were presented with 2016 Excellence National Italian-American Foundation (NIAF) Italia Awards on Sunday evening against the backdrop of the Acquario Romano. The awards were given, among others, to Italian Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda, the President of Italy's National Magistrates Association, Piercamillo Davigo, and the Chairman of the Centre for American Studies in Rome and President of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Gianni De Gennaro. Professor Paolo Catalfamo, founder of NIAF Italia, spoke words of sincere satisfaction: "This year again we are proud to recognize our compatriots whose daily work has made Italy a great country. They contributed to strengthen and enhance the friendship between Italy and the United States of America. 2016 was a difficult year, mired with terrorism, crisis and the war against the Islamic State, which have all put our well-established alliance to the test. But the alliance and friendship that bind our two countries have grown even stronger within the framework of a renewed collaboration. NIAF played a small but important role through the initiatives that took place in Piedmont and in Turin." Professor Catalfamo also highlighted the strong "emotional" element characterizing the relationship on which the Foundation rests, as well as its ties with the United States. It is not a matter of business only. He added, "We are a group of 23 million people who want to make the best possible use of existing synergies, providing an opportunity to discuss the most important themes on the country's agenda and at the same time focusing on enterprises and markets." NIAF Italia's founder went on to illustrate the Foundation's cultural activity encompassing scholarships, journeys and the study of the Italian language: "We are pleased to announce that we will award scholarships to talented young Italian-Americans who cannot afford to pay for their education." The proceedings from the evening will be allocated partly to finance two scholarships in 2017 to prestigious Villanova University in Philadelphia. "The Voyage Discovery" is another milestone: "a 2-week journey to the Region of Honor for 50 young Italian-Americans who have never travelled to Italy". They are third or fourth generation Americans who know little about Italy: "The goal is to guide them to discover their roots by showing them the best of our country," said Mr Catalfamo. The awards were presented on the occasion of a gala dinner attended by representatives of major Italian institutions and the entrepreneurial world. (AGI). .