In Italy, greetings are more than just words. They’re an essential tenet of the language and part of the friendliness the Italian people embrace. Rosetta Stone understands that sometimes, you won’t know what to say. That’s why our Italian lessons embed a feature that lets you quickly call up a word when you’re stuck, moving you beyond translations and back into learning the language.
When you’re tackling how to greet people in Italian, you’ll need to eventually get past basic Italian to English conversions and reach for a better grasp of the culture. For instance, Google translate won’t be able to tell you that Italians love titles like signora and tuck them frequently into greetings as a sign of respect. Or that in Italy, it’s incredibly important that you extend a welcome to each and every person you meet, from friends to strangers. We’ve listed below a few Italian greetings, followed by a brief primer on how to use these phrases to communicate the friendliness and courtesy that Italians expect.
Ciao is the casual go-to greeting in Italian
In Italy, you’ll hear this informal word dropped into just about every conversation. Ciao (pronounced “chow”) can be used as both a casual hello and goodbye, which may cause some initial confusion that you’ll quickly grow accustomed to. Children and parents often exchange a version of this greeting as Ciao, ciao or “Bye, bye.”
When in doubt, use salve
If you’re not sure that the situation calls for the casual ciao, you can use salve instead. It’s a more neutral way to greet in Italian, similar to the difference between saying “hi” versus extending the longer “hello” in English. Just be aware that unlike ciao, it can’t double as a goodbye.
Buon giorno is okay to say all day long
You’ll see this is translated as good morning in some phrasebooks, but buon giorno actually translates to “good day.” Italians typically use this greeting in the morning usually before noon or 1 pm. The pronunciation of the phrase (bwohn jor-noh) can be a bit tricky so keep practicing until you feel confident.
Italians express pleasure with piacere
The French have a version of this phrase, and both translate into this simple sentiment—”enchanted” to meet you. It’s a word that implies a certain charm and familiarity, so Italians use it with close friends rather than casual acquaintances.
Ask come va? with caution
As you might expect, this phrase, which means “how’s it going” is a bit informal and probably isn’t the greeting you’ll want to rely on in meetings with your boss, a client, or even a fleeting exchange with a stranger.
Pronto is a greeting for the telephone only
Because this word means “ready” in Italian, you might be surprised to hear it employed as a telephone greeting. Similar to the way the French use “allô,” Italians open phone conversations with pronto to signal they can hear and are ready to chat.
Benvenuto is welcome in Italian
As you enter a shop, you might hear benvenuto extended, and you’ll be expected to return the pleasantry. It means “welcome” and is used in both formal and informal settings to make a visitor feel at home.
Handshakes are the thing in Italy
The French air kiss cheeks and other cultures might bow, but in Italy, handshakes are the thing. You’ll notice Italians often extend them in accompaniment to a greeting like buon giorno or buona sera to emphasize friendliness. Italians expect to shake hands with every person present upon arriving and to repeat the gesture before taking their leave.