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Alumnus Philip Micali (Michigan) shares insights from traveling through Italy with his chapter brothers. 

The bonds we form with each other within Sigma Nu are meant to last a lifetime. But maintaining those bonds is easier said than done. Recently, alumnus Philip Micali (Michigan) sat down for an interview to talk about a trip he and his chapter brothers took to Italy last year and how trips like that continue to breathe life into the bonds they forged long ago. 

You and many of your chapter brothers recently traveled to Italy together. Have you ever done a trip like this before? How did it come to be? 

We have done several other short gatherings in the United States and Europe, but never a formal weeklong gathering. The idea for this trip came out of the many family pilgrimages I had done previously, and I simply cut and pasted the model and applied it to our Italy experience in March 2022. We had a blast. 

Can you share more about your family pilgrimages? What were they like, and what elements were transferable to the trip you planned for the Sigma Nu group?  

My family pilgrimages focused on discovering our shared heritage, what similarities we share, and what differences we can learn, accept, and embrace. In the context of fraternal brotherhood, the element of shared heritage is also applicable, given the foundation of our friendship which started more than a few decades ago. Downtime on a trip like this is very important. It gives space for recounting stories that originally brought us together in candidate recruitment, initiation, intramural sports, philanthropy, etc. It makes us appreciate who we have become and how we share in the present new experiences.   

What was your favorite part of the trip? 

My favorite part was mixing my family with my college friends, as these are some of the closest people in my life. Italy offers many places to visit - we went truffle hunting with trained dogs and did other authentic local activities, like visited a buffalo mozzarella farm, and toured an ancient bell factory still in operation. Also, the bike ride just beyond the Amalfi Coast was exhilarating.  

A part of Sigma Nu’s Mission is to “perpetuate lifelong friendships.” How have you and your chapter brothers stayed connected after graduation? 

The Gamma Nu Chapter has the advantage of a university with a tremendous sports program that gives us ample opportunity to meet and spend time together cheering for our alma mater. Weekend ski, beach, and hiking trips are also a part of the yearly calendar to keep us together. Additionally, through group text and video teleconferencing, technology has enabled us to stay connected between in-person visits. For a long period during the pandemic, we participated in weekly video calls on Sunday evenings. Several group text chains also began, some based on specific topics, like Michigan sports, supporting brothers and their families experiencing challenging times, or providing congratulatory messages. 

Are you guys planning another trip soon? Anything you might do differently for the next gathering? 

We are planning a follow-up trip in March of 2024. This time to the sun-drenched island of Sicily. We have already begun the planning and will soon be meeting virtually to share information. The only thing I would do differently as the organizer is to have shorter lunches and longer dinners to give travelers more personal time during the day for physical activity, group tours, and rest. Longer dinners would be for storytelling with a locally produced glass of wine. 

What advice do you have for any alumni interested in coordinating a similar experience for their brothers? 

I advise the person(s) organizing an alumni trip to present it a least a year in advance, so travelers have time to schedule it and keep it on their calendars. Quarterly information sessions, done virtually, really help travelers feel excited about the trip and comfortable with the itinerary. It builds excitement to have the invited professional tour guides give a brief presentation on the sites that will be seen.  

I also advise that the accommodations, including ground transportation, meals, and tours, have a shared group price point accessible to as many brothers and their spouses or partners as possible. Splitwise is a very useful smartphone app to track who spends what for shared expenses. Setting up a shared photo repository site is key to helping record all the great memories made during the experience. 

For non-English speaking destinations, having one or more travelers speak the local language fluently is key. And very importantly, a Sigma Nu flag and an alma mater flag make for very nice group photos. You can find Sigma Nu flags for sale in the merchandise section of sigmanu.org. I am happy to assist any brothers interested in organizing a trip to Italy. 

One last question: I understand you endured an open heart surgery operation just a few months after the Italy trip last year. What did fraternity mean to you during that period? 

My fraternity brothers were the rock for me in that period of great fear and uncertainty and the path toward treatment and healing. The moral support was tremendous, and the expertise shared by our physician brothers was enormously empowering in discerning which treatment to pursue. The night before the surgery I convened a zoom call, named “Pre Game (Surgery) Pep Talk”, which gave me all the confidence in the world that I had a great wind in my sails.

Interested in your own brotherhood trip to Italy? Consider letting Phil help organize your adventure. Phil can be reached at (917) 523-9068 or philitaly100@gmail.com. You can also learn more at www.philitaly.co


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