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Greetings  In  Italian

Saying Hello and Good-bye in Italy

When arriving in Italy, the first introduction one has with the Italian language is how to greet people.  There are many expressions used depending on the time of day and whether it is an informal or formal meeting.  Relaxed and easygoing as the Italian people are, they are quite respectful and polite with their greetings and their titles.  We often get fooled on which words to use when exchanging greetings.  Sometimes we will say "salve" and the Italians will say "buongiorno", we will say "buongiorno" and they will respond "salve".

Sometimes in the early afternoon we will say "buonasera" and they will say "buongiorno", we will say "buongiorno" and they will say "buonasera".  Other times they will just say "giorno" with no preceding "buon" or just say "sera" in the afternoon and evening.  We find that sometimes they will say several expressions in a row.  When meeting they will say, "salve, boungiorno" or when leaving "salve, buona giornata, arrivederci".  You can never really go wrong with just saying "buongiorno".

The explanations and definitions below are of the most commonly used greetings in Italian. *(see foot note)  

Ciao - hello and good-bye: informal (really need to know someone a little while before using this expression.  It is used all the time amongst friends)

Salve - hello and good-bye: neutral  (salve is a relic from Latin.  In Caesar's time, the Romans used it a lot.  Also can be used for good-bye)

Salve ragazzi!- Hi folks!

Buongiorno - Good morning but literally Good Day (whenever in doubt, use this word as it is the most formal greeting.  Buongiorno can also be use to say "good-bye".

Buonasera - good afternoon and good evening: formal (buonasera is usually used for hello and good-bye after 4 P.M., but we find this is not always the exact time)

Buonanotte - good-night

Buona giornata! - have a nice day (you often use this phrase when you're leaving somebody or saying good-bye on the telephone)

Buona serata! - similar to buona giornata but again after 4 P.M.

Arrivederci - good-bye

*The above explanation of greetings was taken from Italian For Dummies, which is a wonderful language book which we highly recommend.  The book has wonderful sidebars on life and customs of Italy.

Menaggio, Lake Como




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