First impressions matter. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Especially in Italy where the people are so warm and friendly! Just a simple hello in Italian like Ciao, Buongiorno or Salve can make all the difference in a conversation with an Italian native. Maybe add a bacio sulla guancia (kiss on the cheek) to that if it is appropriate and they will absolutely love you! And don’t think that this is just “an Italian thing”. No. Your attempt to speak the local language will surely be regarded as a sign of respect everywhere you go in the world. So get your greetings on point before traveling to a foreign country. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!
1. How to say “hello” in Italian
Ciao is undeniably the most common Italian greeting. In fact, I’d say it is universal and used in many countries between friends as a joke. Together, of course, with Capisce (“Do you understand?”). We all use Capisce and Buongiorno (“Good morning”) when we want to summon our inner Italians, don’t we? Hahaha!
But there’s more to Italian greetings than just Ciao. Let’s discover the best ways to say hello in Italian and how it is appropriate to use them depending on the social context you are in.
Hello in Italian – Salve!
The Italian culture is renowned for its deep respect for the elderly. That is why you should always be a bit more formal in one to one interactions with older people or with people you don’t personally know. In this kind of situation, you can safely use Salve. To put it into perspective, Ciao is the Italian equivalent of “Hi” while Salve is the equivalent of “Hello”.
Hi in Italian – Ciao!
Definitely your best choice for an informal situation, Ciao derived from the Venetian phrase S-ciào vostro or S-ciào su literally meaning “I am your slave”. However, the expression was not to be taken literally. Its real meaning was rather a promise of good will among friends (the same “at your service” was used in English).
The phrase was later shortened to Ciào, lost its servile connotations and started being used as an informal greeting by all people regardless of their class.
Moving on to other ways to say hello in Italian, if you want to greet a group of friends you can also say Ciao a tutti which means “Hello everybody”. Depending on your relationship with the members of the group you are greeting, you can also say Salve a tutti or you can greet each and every one of them differently.
In Italy, it is also possible to hear children say Ciao-ciao which is the cuter version of Ciao and it translates to “Bye-bye”.
2. Italian greetings for certain moments of the day
Good morning in Italian – Buongiorno! (it can also be used as a goodbye)
Good afternoon in Italian – Buon pomeriggio!
Good evening in Italian – Buonasera! (it can also be used as a goodbye)
Good night in Italian – Buonanotte! (it isn’t used only as a bedtime expression. Italians say Buonanotte when they meet someone in the late evening.)
All four of these greetings are safe to use in any kind of formal or informal interaction.
3. How to say goodbye in Italian
Arrivederci is the most common way to say “goodbye” in Italian. The same as Ciao, it can be used safely in all kinds of social contexts (formal or informal).
However, you should note that, depending on when you say it, Ciao can also mean “Goodbye”. So yeah, it’s now safe to say that Ciao is an all-purpose greeting.
On the other hand, if you want to say goodbye, let’s say, to la nonna della famiglia (the grandmother of the family), you’ll want to be a bit more formal than Arrivederci. In that situation, Arrivederla is recommended.
Want more? Here are other ways to say goodbye in Italian that are suitable for both formal and informal situations:
- See you later. – A dopo.
- See you in a bit. –A fra poco.
- See you tomorrow. –A domani.
- See you soon. –A presto.
4. Other basic Italian phrases that you should know
If you want to travel to Italy, you should know that this is where you’ll meet one of the kindest, friendliest and most talkative people in Europe. Don’t believe us? Well, hear this! If you are familiar enough, the Italians will even give you an bacio sulla guancia (kiss on the cheek). Careful though! Not every social interaction calls for a cheek kiss. So don’t take the first step yet. In time you will learn the proper Italian behavior.
The bottom line is that one week in Italy is enough to fill yourself with positive energy and joy! Learn Italian, book your trip and see for yourself.
Now let us go back to the point. Here are a few sentences you could use for a basic conversation in Italian:
- Hello! How nice it is too see you! – Ciao! Che piacere vederti!
- How are you? – Come stai? (or Come sta? – formal)
- Very well. Thanks! – Molto bene, grazie.
- I’m well. Thanks! And you? – Sto bene grazie, e tu?
- So so – Così così.
- Things are going great! – Va benissimo!
- Everything is going well. – Va tutto bene.
- What is your name? – Come ti chiami?
- My name is Mondly. – Mi chiamo Mondly.
- Nice to meet you. – Piacere.
- It’s nice to meet you – Piacere di conoscerti.
P.S.: If you want to say that the pasta is delicious, you say È delizioso! (It’s delicious!).
Bonus: “Excuse me”, “please” and “thank you” are all part of the definition of being polite in any language, so here’s how to apologize, say please or thank you in Italian:
- Please. – Per piacere.
- Thank you. – Grazie.
- Thank you very much. – Grazie mille.
- I’m sorry. – Mi dispiace.
- You’re welcome. – Prego.
- Excuse me. – Mi scusi.
- No problem. – Non c’è problema.
Do you want to take a step further and achieve Italian fluency?