Fea was born in Turin, and became an assistant at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova the Museum of Natural History in Genoa. He made several foreign trips to collect specimens, including visits to Burma (1885) and the Cape Verde Islands (1898), islands in the Gulf of Guinea (1899/1900) and Portuguese West Africa. He spent four years in Burma, accumulating large collections of insects and birds. He then planned an expedition to Malaysia, but his poor health made it necessary to choose somewhere with a drier climate, hence his visit to the Cape Verdes. He was disappointed by the amount of wildlife he found there, but was still able to collect forty-seven species of birds, eleven of which were new for the islands. His collections are in the Genoa museum.
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O. Nalesini, L'Asia Sud-orientale nella cultura italiana. Bibliografia analitica ragionata, 1475-2005. Roma, Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente, 2009, pp. 19–20 and 65-66 ISBN 978-88-6323-284-4.