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10 Italian Greetings: How to Say ‘Hello’ in Italian Like a Native (PLUS Free Printable)

Sound more natural and native with these alternative ways to say 'hello' in Italian that go beyond saying 'Ciao'!

by Michele
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Italian Greetings: How to Say Hello in Italian
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It all starts by learning how to say ‘Hello’ in Italian. Break the ice and put a smile on locals faces with few common Italian greetings and you’ll be adopted into la famiglia (the family) in no time! 

You know what they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. One guaranteed way to avoid being treated like a tourist and enjoy authentic travel experiences in Italy is by greeting locals in their native language. The best part? Italian greetings are super easy to learn too!

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Knowing just a few of the most common words in Italian can make a huge difference. It’s respectful and shows that you’re making an effort to learn more about the people who speak the language, their beautiful country and culture.

When locals hear foreigners greet them in their language, they instantly become warmer and friendlier towards you. Italians are some of the most generous, kindest, and most talkative people in the world. They literally make you feel like one of the family. Imagine how wonderful your travels in Italy would be if you did as little as just greeted Italians in Italian and asked them how they are doing! 

During one trip to Sicily, me and my four international girlfriends went out to dinner the first night. Shortly after we arrived at the restaurant, the lady at the table next to use took an interest in us and started talking to us. Maria was so impressed that we could all speak Italian, that she invited all us over to her home the next day for afternoon tea! This was the result of a brief five minute conversation! It just goes to show that a little can go a long way. Anything is possible! Read all about how mastering Italian changed my travel experiences and how it can help you do the same!

Can you handle the warmth and friendliness headed your way?  If so, read on! Here are some of the most common Italian greetings, as well as useful expressions you can use to ask Italian how they are doing.

Cominciamo! (Let’s get started!)

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Don’t miss my guide on 16 ways to say goodbye in Italian and 5 ways to ask ‘How are you?’ in Italian.

Formal and Informal: How to be Polite in Italian

In Italian, it’s important to know that there is a formal and an informal way to address another person. Unlike in English, our version of being formal and informal is the difference between not swearing or just using more sophisticated words.

Italian has an informal tense which is used when speaking with good friends, young people, children, and your family members. Basically, anyone you know well.

However, when speaking to a person you don’t know well such as a superior, shopkeeper, waiter, teacher, professor, or someone of important social standing such as a doctor, or police officer, then you should address him or her in the formal tense.

When you become more familiar with someone, you may change from using the formal tense to the informal tense. According to custom, the elder person initiates this change. It’s handy to learn both tenses even if you don’t use the informal very much. Whenever in doubt, the safe option is to use the formal tense.

Italian Greetings: 10 Common Ways Italians Say ‘Hello’

1. How to say ‘Hi’ in Italian – Ciao!

How to pronounce it: chaow
Meaning: Hi, Bye
Usage: Informal Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - CiaoThis is the most common Italian greeting that actually means both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and can be used at any time of the day. When you are meeting some friends, for instance, be it morning or evening, you can say ‘ciao’ both when you meet and when you say goodbye. Since ‘ciao’ is an informal greeting you only use it in conversations with friends or family or people you know very well. Avoid using it with people of high social importance such as police officers, doctors, your boss or a teacher.

The origins of ‘ciao’ are rather interesting too with its roots in the Venetian dialect. The original phrase was ‘scia’o vostro’ which literally meant ‘I am your slave’. This phrase was typically used to say ‘I am there if you need me’. Similar to the English ‘at your service’, it was an expression or promise of goodwill among friends. 

Nowadays, ‘ciao’ is one of the most popular greetings not only in Italy but in the whole world. Languages around the world have adopted ‘ciao’ as one of the ways to say hello and/or goodbye.  In Germany, for example, it can be spelled ‘ciao’ or ‘tschau’, in French it’s ‘tchao’ in Czech it’s spelled ‘čau’, in Greek it’s ‘τσάο’ and in Spanish it’s ‘chau’.  And that’s just to name a few!

However, if you don’t want to repeat the same word all the time or need something more formal, here’s a formal Italian greeting you can use. 

Depending on how you say ‘ciao’ it can also take on a new meaning. For example, in Italian and Portuguese, when you say it twice, either ‘ciao ciao!’ or ‘tchau tchau!’ it means ‘goodbye’, but when you say it three or four times, it means “bye, I’m in a hurry!”.

When an Italian is super happy to see you, they will drag out the pronunciation of the ‘a’, which is them basically saying “Hi! I’m so happy/amazed to meet you!”

Want to be sarcastic? Italian’s might say something like ‘sì, ciao!’, meaning ‘Yeah, right!’.

For more common phrases, learn how to say goodbye in Italian with my guide.

2. How to say ‘Hello’ in Italian – Salve 

How to pronounce it: sal-veh
Meaning: Hello, Bye
Usage: Informal and formal Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - SalveMany Italian greetings can be clearly classified as formal or informal, but ‘salve’ is a special case. Like ‘ciao’, it means both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, but it is also viewed as both formal and informal, depending on the context. However, it does tend to be a little more on the formal side. You probably won’t hear ‘salve’ from someone you’ve been good friends with for a long time. When in doubt, the safest bet is to say ‘salve’.

The word ‘salve’ comes from the Latin verb ‘salvere’, which means ‘to be well, in good health’, related to ‘salvus’, ‘health’. The English words ‘to salute’ and ‘salutations’ have similar roots. 

You can use ‘salve’ if you want to ‘salute’ someone in a formal or informal situation at any time of the day.

3. How to say ‘How nice to see you’ in Italian – Che piacere (ri)vederti

How to pronounce it: keh pyah-chair-ray (ree)veh-der-tee
Meaning: How nice to see you (again)
Usage: Informal Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - Che piacere vederti‘Che piacere vederti!’ and ‘Che piacere rivederti!’, literally means, ‘What a pleasure to see you’ and ‘What a pleasure to see you again’ respectively. If you want your greeting to be a little more enthusiastic and emotional, tell the person that it is a pleasure to see them. ‘Piacere’ means ‘pleasure’.  In fact, these two words originated from the same Latin root. 

Use this greeting when you want to tell someone how happy you are to see them (vederti) or see them again (riverderti). Italians tend to use this expression when they haven’t seen someone in a while or with someone they see often but are genuinely happy to see them again.

4. How to say ‘Good Morning’ in Italian – Buongiorno

How to pronounce it: bwohn-jor-noh
Meaning: Good morning
Usage: Informal and formal greeting used before 3-4 p.m

Italian Greetings - BuongiornoJust like in English, some Italian greetings are only appropriate for a certain time of the day. It would feel weird if someone greeted you with a ‘good afternoon’ or a ‘good evening’ at 10 a.m., wouldn’t it?

‘Buongiorno’ literally means ‘good day’ and it is used to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’ in Italian. You can safely use it up until around 3-4 o’clock in the afternoon. 

‘Buongiorno’ is a formal alternative to ‘ciao’ (but until 4 p.m.) and it is a good polite phrase to use whenever greeting a stranger or in a public place, like a shop or a cafe.

5. How to say ‘Good Afternoon / Good Evening’ in Italian – Buonasera

How to pronounce it: bwoh-nah-seh-rah
Meaning: Good afternoon/ Good evening
Usage: Informal and formal greeting used after 3-4 p.m

Italian Greetings - BuonaseraFrom late afternoon, from 4 o’clock onwards, you no longer can use ‘buongiorno’ – well, you can, of course, but it will sound a little strange. Instead, say ‘buonasera’, which literally means ‘good evening’. 

It is okay to say ‘buonasera’ up until as late as 10 p.m., in formal and informal situations. People use it with friends, but it is slightly more polite than ‘ciao’ and, like ‘buongiorno’, it is a polite phrase to use when you enter a shop or another public place where you’re likely to encounter people you don’t know.. 

When you are leaving and want to wish someone a good evening, you can say ‘buona serata’.

6. How to say ‘Hey’ in Roman – Aó!

How to pronounce it: aaow
Meaning: Hey! Hi! / Wow!
Usage: Informal Roman dialect greeting

When in Rome, do as the Romans do….use Roman greetings! If you want to sound Roman and impress your newfound Roman friends, then say ‘Aó!’. This is a very informal greeting and not really used anywhere else in Italy as it’s from the Roman dialect Romanesco. Get more cool Roman dialect words and expressions here.

Italian Greetings - Aó!

This common Roman greeting is very common among friends and you’ll often hear them say something like ‘Aó! Ciao! Come te butta?’ meaning ‘Oh Hey! Hi, how’s it going?’. (Come te butta? literally means ‘How are you throwing yourself’. I just love the imagery! ‘Aó’ is also used as an exclamation to mean something ‘wow’ and is added either to the beginning or end of a sentence for emphasis.

Recommended: Top 10 unsual things to do in Rome that aren’t on your list

7. Say ‘Buon dì’ as an alternative to ‘Buongiorno’

How to pronounce it: bwohn dee
Meaning: Hello, Good morning
Usage: Informal and formal Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - Buon dì‘Buon dì’ is a variation of ‘buongiorno’ that literally means ‘good day’ and is used to say hello at around the same time and in both formal and informal situations. ‘Dì’ comes from a Latin word ‘dies’, which means ‘day’. 

Buon dì greeting is less used than ‘buongiorno’ but will add variety to your speech and impress your Italian friends. They will, naturally, be glad to just hear ‘ciao’ or ‘buongiorno’ from you, but ‘Buon dì, come va?’ (Good morning, how’s it going?) might win you a few more points.

8. How to say ‘Nice to meet you’ in informal Italian – Piacere di conoscerti

How to pronounce it: pyah-chair-ray dee koh-noh-sher-tee
Meaning: Nice to meet you
Usage: Informal Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - Piacere di conoscertiWhen you are introduced to someone – in any part of the world – you need to know how to reply. Most languages probably have some equivalent of saying ‘nice to meet you’. The Italian one is ‘Piacere di conoscerti!’, used in informal situations. You can even ship the second half of the phrase and just say ‘Piacere!’.  It is quite common for the following exchange to happen when two Italians meet for the first time: Piacere. — Piacere (Nice to meet you. — Nice to meet you, too.). Another possible reply is ‘altrettanto’.

9. How to say ‘Nice to meet you’ in formal Italian – Piacere di conoscerLa

How to pronounce it: pyah-chair-ray dee koh-noh-sher-lah
Meaning: Nice to meet you
Usage: Formal Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - Piacere di conoscerLaUnlike English, Italian has an informal and a formal ‘you’ – ‘tu’ and ‘Lei’ and a few related forms. It is important to remember this when talking to your superiors at work, older people and people of important social rank such as doctors, and law enforcement officers.  ‘Piacere di conoscerLa’ is a formal way of saying ‘nice to meet you’ to someone you would also use the formal pronoun ‘Lei’ with. For more, get my step-by-step guide on how to introduce yourself in Italian.

10. How to say ‘Hello’ on the phone in Italian – Pronto!

How to pronounce it: pron-toh
Meaning: Hello! (lit. ready)
Usage: Neutral Italian greeting

Italian Greetings - ProntoWhen answering the phone, Italians don’t say ‘ciao’ or even ‘buongiorno, they say ‘Pronto!’ which means ‘ready’. In other words, they are ‘ready’ to listen and ‘ready’ to talk. It is used in both formal and informal situations – after all, you can’t always predict who is on the other end of the line! 

Next time, when your Italian teacher or your friends from Italy call you, greet them with a ‘Pronto!’ – they will be glad to hear it!

Tips for using Italian Greetings

When greeting someone, Italians often use a combination of all the greetings shown above. For example, in Rome you might hear: ‘Aó! Ciao! Come stai!’, or ‘Salve, Buongiorno!’, or ‘Salve! Che piacere vederti!’. Keep the conversation going and leanr how too say how are you in Italian.

Keep practising!
10 Ways to say 'Hello' Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide to saying hello in Italian like a native. Includes pronunciation and example sentences. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
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C’è la puoi fare! (You’ve got this!)

That’s it! You’ve just learned the most common Italian greetings. There is a lot to choose from and may seem overwhelming at first, but as you put them into practice hear them being used, you’ll realise they are easier to learn than you think.

Quite often you can use the same phrases to both greet and say goodbye in Italian. So, if at first you struggle to remember which greetings are formal or informal, just remember one or two: ‘buongiorno’ (Good morning) and ‘arrivederci‘ (Goodbye). 

The important thing is to stay motivated and have a positive attitude. Learning Italian greeting are a great way to get your foot in the door and break the ice with locals, even if your fumble and make mistakes. Any effort you make will always be appreciated. If you accidentally slip and say ‘ciao!’, Italians are very forgiving people and can see that you’re still learning.

As the saying goes, well begun is half done. Learning Italian greetings is a great start to mastering the Italian language for travel and making a good first impression on your future new Italian friends.

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Italian Greetings - How to Say Hello in Italian Like a Local

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