Formal Italian greetings VS formal ones: How to say “hello” in Italian without being rude!

updated 20/10/2021

Recently I’ve been to Prague in Czech Republic.

I loved it.

Yet, there was one thing I really disliked: my inability to communicate verbally with Czech people.

My level of Czech language = 0. Literally!

Although I picked up some Czech words whilst I was there, on my first day I couldn’t even say “hello”.

My (lazy) theory was that, since I had Czech friends who spoke English too, I wouldn’t need to speak any Czech at all. Also, most Czech people speak good English too. Plus, I am Italian, I can communicate with gestures, right?

Wrong (and weird, as far as the gesture part is concerned!)!

The truth is that I talk a lot and I love getting to know people from other countries. Speaking a bit of Czech would’ve been a massive advantage to get to know the Czechs more intimately (despite their reserved personality) and see a bit more eye to eye with them.

With hindsight, I wish I had learned some basic Czech before going there! At least, how to say properly “hello”, “good morning” “good evening”… these are the very first words in a foreign language that open a door in someone’s heart and allow you into their world.

The bottom line is: if you are going to Italy this summer, I don’t want you to make my same mistake when I visited Czech Republic. You must know at least how to say “Hi!” in Italian – and it’s not just “ciao!”.

Today, I’m going to share with you 5 common ways to say “hello” in Italian that will make you feel even more welcomed and loved once you are in Italy – and very well treated in restaurants and hotels. Here they are:

1. Ciao

You know this one already, don’t you? Yet, this is one of the most mispronounced words in the Italian language by many learners. Listen to the pronunciation by clicking on the word or here: you can notice that the “i” is silent.
In general, we use “ciao” in informal situations, with people we know well. Also, “ciao” means “bye” too – 2 for 1 deal!  However, you must remember that this is an informal greeting and you cannot use it at all times. In the live lesson below I show you different formal and informal Italian greetings you can use in different situations:

You can download the learning sheet with all the notes + quiz from this lesson right here.

Meanwhile. below are some of the main greetings I talk about int the video above:

2. Buongiorno

In the morning, we use “buongiorno” which literally means “good day”. “Buon giorno” can be used both in formal and informal contexts throughout the whole day (including the early afternoon). There is also a shorter and informal version of this word, which is “‘giorno” but I am a firm supporter of the longer version, because it’s much better to wish people a GOOD morning, as also Pavarotti sings!

3.Buona sera

“Buona sera” means “good evening”. Although when using “buona sera” may seem pretty obvious, it’s also a matter of feeling for Italians. Yes, it’s used in the evening but it may also be used it in the afternoon, especially slightly before the dusk…you may be wondering: don’t you guys have a word for “good afternoon”? Yes, we do, it’s “buon pomeriggio“. However, it’s becoming increasingly less popular to use “buon pomeriggio” in spoken Italian as it’s perceived as a fairly formal greeting.

Now, if at this point you’re a bit confused about which greeting to use, fear not! Because I’m going to share with you the “all in one” greeting, which is…

4. Salve

“Salve” , which means “hello”, can be use it whenever you want. Although “salve” is in theory a formal greeting, it’s currently used in both formal and informal situations. It’ll be your life saver if you aren’t sure which one of the previous greetings you need to use.

And now you’ve got all the most popular to say “hello” in Italian. But, wait! We can’t leave before having learnt how to say “goodbye” too, which is…


“Arrivederci” means “goodbye”. It’s pretty formal, very used and maybe a bit challenging to pronounce (get some practice with all these greetings at The Language Rose Italian Class on Quizlet! You can join here!) but, in case you don’t remember it, you can always use “ciao” to say “bye”.

So, here they are, 5 formal and informal Italian greetings that will help you to break the ice once you’re in Italy.  Wanna learn more Italian greetings? Download the learning sheet of the video lesson below right here and start practicing!

A presto (see you soon)!


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