What’s in this article
Have you ever had the experience of traveling to a foreign country and struggling to communicate with the locals because you didn’t know their language?
I remember the first time I visited Spain, a country that I had been fascinated with for years.
It was a bit overwhelming.
Before departure, I didn’t worry about not knowing Spanish because I thought I could get away with speaking Italian given the similarity of the two languages, and at worst I would have spoken English.
As soon as I landed, I felt like I was missing out on so much because I couldn’t understand or speak the language.
But as the days passed, something remarkable happened.
I began to realize that despite our differences in language and culture, people were eager to help me.
Shopkeepers, hotel staff, and even strangers on the street went out of their way to assist me and make me feel welcome.
One particular experience stands out in my mind.
I was trying to find a specific restaurant, and I must have looked completely lost because a kind woman approached me and asked if I needed help.
Despite the fact that she spoke very little English, she took the time to look up the restaurant and even walked me there personally.
I was blown away by her generosity and kindness, and it made me feel incredibly grateful to be in Spain.
As my trip continued, I found that my language skills improved with each passing day.
I began to pick up common phrases and understand more of the customs and traditions.
And I learned that with a little effort and practice, anyone can pick up the basics of a new language, especially if you’re motivated to do so.
And here, I want to help you do just that by teaching you some basic Italian that you can use on your next trip to Italy.
Saying hello in Italian is not only a basic form of greeting, but it’s also a fundamental aspect of Italian culture.
As a traveller, language enthusiast, or someone with Italian roots, learning how to say hello in Italian is an essential part of immersing yourself in the country’s rich culture.
To learn how to pronounce the Italian greetings in this blog post, listen to the Speak Italian Like A Local podcast.
How to greet in Italian
The first step in speaking Italian is to learn the basics of greetings.
Greeting people is a great way to get to know each other and build relationships.
Greeting people in Italian is a great way to show respect and connect with native Italian speakers.
But, before we get into the most common Italian greetings, there are a few things you should know about when and how to use them.
Unlike other nationalities, the way Italians greet each other depends on different factors:
- The occasion, which can be formal or informal;
- the age of the person they’re speaking with;
- the time of day;
- and whether they’re arriving or leaving.
Also, It’s a stereotype that Italians speak with their hands, and body language in Italy is just as important as spoken language.
Therefore, greetings and introductions in Italy go beyond words and into body language as well.
When meeting someone for the first time on a formal occasion, it’s customary to extend your hand for a quick shake.
On the other hand, when meeting friends or relatives, or people you know really well, you are expected to hold hands and give air kisses on their cheeks.
“Il bacio sulla guancia” isn’t really a kiss; our cheeks brush against each other, from left to right, and we make a kissing sound with our mouths.
It’s very common among women, women and men, but it’s also becoming more common among men!
Also, a large number of people enjoy giving hugs and patting each other on the back.
This is more common among men, though!
Getting to know Italian Greetings: Informal vs Formal
Ciao! Or should I say, buongiorno or buonasera?
Knowing how to greet someone in Italian can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re not familiar with the culture.
Informal greetings are those used with friends or people with whom you have a certain level of confidence.
Avoid using them if you’re speaking to someone you don’t know really well or who you’re seeing for the first time, or with elderly people.
Let’s see the different ways to say “hello” in Italian, both formally and informally, along with some other common Italian greetings that you should know.
How to say Hello in Italian
Hello in Italian (Informal)
The most common way to say hello informally in Italian is “ciao.”
This greeting is used among friends, family, and colleagues, and can be used to say hello or goodbye.
It’s an informal greeting, so you wouldn’t use it in a formal or business setting.
For example, if you’re meeting up with friends in Italy, you can say “ciao ragazzi!” which means “hello guys!”
You may also hear greetings like “Ciao bella” (hello beautiful, or hello dear), which is a term of endearment used between male and female friends.
However, it’s important to remember that these greetings are not appropriate for use with strangers.
In fact, using “Ciao bella” with a woman can often have the opposite effect of being flattering and instead make her feel uncomfortable or awkward, much like in English.
It’s generally best to avoid using the word “ciao” when greeting adults you don’t know or when entering a cafè or a restaurant.
Instead, save it for situations in which you are a frequent customer or have become friendly with the staff.
Hello in Italian (formal)
In more formal situations, you should use the greeting “buongiorno” (good morning) or “buonasera” (good evening), depending on the time of day.
Usually “buongiorno” is used until 3 or 4 pm in summer or when it’s getting dark in winter, then we switch to “buona sera.”
These greetings are more polite and respectful than “ciao” and are appropriate for use in professional or formal settings.
For example, if you’re entering a shop, a restaurant, or speaking to a stranger, you can use “buongiorno” or “buonasera.”
Other Italian Greetings
A more colloquial way of saying good morning is “Buon dì”.
The word ‘dì’ (with the accent) is actually an old expression for ‘day’.
In the past, “buon dì” was the primary form, and “buongiorno” was just a secondary one.
Today, this is no longer the case.
Today, “Buon dì” is mostly used in a colloquial way (therefore not suitable for addressing a person we are not familiar with).
It’s a very cheerful greeting.
Sometimes you may also hear “buon pomeriggio” (good afternoon), but it’s not widely used and is now only heard on television or radio.
You can also say “salve,” which is the polite version of “ciao” and can be used both when arriving and leaving.
You can use salve in those places where you don’t want to be overly formal but aren’t quite as casual as “ciao!”
How to say Goodbye in Italian
Saying goodbye in Italian is an important part of communication.
Let’s talk about ways to greet someone in Italian when leaving:
Buona giornata means “good day,” we use it at the end of a conversation as a formal greeting, to wish that person a good day.
Buona Serata is the evening version of Buona Giornata, it literally means “have a good evening!”
Buonanotte means “goodnight,” and it’s only used when going to bed.
Arrivederci literally translates to “until we meet again” and is used to say “goodbye.”
It can be used to greet one or more people on both formal and informal occasions, though I would never use it to greet my family or friends.
Arrivederla means the same as Arrivederci but is used only on formal occasions and only to greet one person.
Other Italian farewell greetings
A dopo means “see you later.”
You can simply say “a dopo”, or you can eventually say “ci vediamo dopo” (see you later) or “ci sentiamo dopo” (talk to you later).
But remember that if you say a dopo, you’re implying that you’ll see or meet that person later that day! It’s not like the English “later,” which means “in 5 minutes or never again that day!
So only use it if you know you’ll be meeting or calling that person later that day!
A presto – Not sure when you’ll see or speak with that person again?
Well, a presto is the best option!
A presto is also used in combination with “ci vediamo presto” (see you soon) and “ci sentiamo presto” (talk to you soon).
Alla prossima literally means until next time.
This greeting means that we will meet again even if we don’t know exactly when.
How to say hello in Italian on the phone
When answering the phone in Italian, we use the word “pronto,” which means “ready”.
When picking up the phone, we say: Pronto,” and the caller replies with: “pronto buongiorno, parlo con…” (Hello, am I speaking with…)
However, when we call a company or hotel to make a reservation, they usually answer with the name of the company or hotel, followed by “good morning” and “how can I help you?”
As an example: Albero Continental Buongiorno, come posso aiutarla? (Continental Hotel good morning; how can I help you?)
In conclusion, understanding how to greet someone in Italian is an important aspect of the culture. Whether you’re speaking informally with friends or in a formal setting with strangers or business associates, using the appropriate Italian greeting can help you establish a positive relationship with the person you’re speaking with. So, practice saying “ciao,” “buongiorno,” or “buonasera,” and don’t forget to sprinkle in some of the other Italian greetings we’ve introduced in this blog post several times naturally throughout your conversations.
I hope you found this Italian greetings guide useful.
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Ciao and safe travels!