CIAO was established in 1988, in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia. Originally, its focus was to provide Americans of Italian descent, and their spouses, the opportunity to meet and form enduring friendships with one another through social gatherings, cultural and educational events, and dinners. Recognizing that there are many non-Italians with Italy in their hearts, CIAO is now open to everyone. It remains dedicated, however, to providing its membership with a variety of enjoyable activities. Events include regular social gatherings, most with presentations; an Italian Film Festival in January/February/March; special dinners, to include a Valentine’s Day Dinner/Dance in February, a Scholarship Awards Dinner in May, a Summer Picnic in June and a Christmas Dinner/Party in December. There are also planned day trips as determined by the level of interest of club members. Finally, there is an informal Italian Round Table where individuals can learn and practice the Italian language. The CIAO Social Club oversees the various social activities.

In 1989, CIAO decided to initiate a charitable outreach program in the local community, focusing on education. CIAO made its first monetary awards that year to local high school and college students to help them further their academic studies. Over the years, CIAO has continued its positive engagement with the local community through its flagship Scholarship Awards Program as well as other charitable endeavors. The CIAO Foundation oversees these charitable efforts.