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In 1987, she obtained the International Baccalaureate at the United World College of the Adriatic. She attended the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli (LUISS) in Rome, where she graduated in Political Sciences (International Relations). In 1990, she became a flight attendant for Air France.
In 1989, she was among the first Italian students of the Erasmus Programme at Institut d'études politiques de Strasbourg. In 1992, she started her career in Brussels at the European Commission with various positions including DG Development, Food Aid and Food Security and ECHO, European Community Humanitarian Aid Office as public affairs officer. She worked on humanitarian communication and awareness campaigns in favour of children in the Balkan conflicts as well as Afghan women by conceiving and launching the worldwide campaign "A flower for the women of Kabul" (1996) in collaboration with Benetton's photographer, Oliviero Toscani.
In June 1999, she was appointed political adviser to Minister Bernard Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Kosovo (UNMIK) until 2001, taking charge of external relations and outreach with the Kosovo war-thorn society. In October 2003, she was appointed special advisor of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, and was in charge of projects for the empowerment of Iraqi women as well as development projects with the Italian troops for Mission "Ancient Babylon" (Nassyria).
In 2005, she became Lieutenant of the Italian Army (Specialized Reserve) and attended the Military Academy in Turin. In 2007, she served as Blue Helmet for the UNIFIL peace keeping mission in Lebanon with the Folgore Parachute Brigade as polad to the Chief Commander Sector West (Tebnine). She attended the École Militaire in Paris where she graduated from the Ecole supérieure des officiers de réserve spécialistes d’état-major (ESORSEM) in 2009. In June 2009, she joined the Office of the Italian Prime Minister for the organization of the G8 Summit in L'Aquila after the earthquake. In 2013, she was appointed ERASMUS Famous Alumni by the European Commission, an elite panel of European personalities who took part to the Erasmus Programme.
Since 1999, she is an official of the United Nations World Food Programme. She is currently the director of the United Nations World Food Program for France and Monaco, headquartered in Paris. In February 2015, she conceived, managed and launched the global awareness campaign "805 million names" with football star Zlatan Ibrahimović and ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors  that won several awards among which Cannes Lions Gold award (June 2015) and two Grand awards at CLIO Sports award (July 2015). The campaign was also desplayed on maxi screens at Times Square, New York, on 25 June 2015.
- Knight of L'Ordre National du Mérite of the French Republic (2009);
- Harris Fellow Award Rotary International;
- "Melvin Jones" (2009);
- "Foemina d'Oro" (2008) for her commitment in Lebanon;
- International Award "St. Thomas among the nations" for her commitment in Iraq.
- A woman soldier: diary of an Italian lieutenant in Lebanon (Rizzoli - 2008). This is the first book written in Italy by a woman-soldier and tells the everyday life of soldiers in the front line.
- The train of Kosovo Polje (SELLERIO - 2003) for which she received the Award for Fiction The Country of Women.
- Essays on civil-military relations among them: "The role of female soldiers in peacekeeping missions" (Italian Air Force Magazine), "Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership" (Il Sole 24 ore - Harvard Business Review).
- "Marina Catena: soldier and humanitarian". euronews. 5 September 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- (en) TEDx talk: "The Magic of Names"
- (en) "805 million names" campaign with football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- (en) Huffington Post OP-ED: "805 Million Names" and how it all started
- (en) EXPO Milan interview
- (ba) Interview in Azramag (Sarajevo)
- (it) Intervista TGCOM24
- (fr) Le football et le PAM ensemble contre la faim - Programme Alimentaire Mondial
- (fr) Visite de la Directrice du PAM Mme Marina Catena à Monaco - News Monte-Carlo
- (it) Interview: ERASMUS Alumni