hello in italian

How to Say Hello in Italian and 11 Other Italian Greetings

“Hello” is the first word of any chance encounter, business meeting or restaurant order.

Learning how to say “hello” and other greetings in Italian could be the beginning of some great conversations. 

This post will show you 12 Italian greetings you should know so you can start any conversation on the right note!

Contents

1. Ciao!

It looks simple. It seems effective. It should do the job, doubling as both “hello” and goodbye,” and you’re probably already familiar with it…sort of.

Its origins are found in the Venetian dialect: scia’o vostro (I am your slave). It directly references the Italian word for slave, schiavo. When used in vèneto, this turn of phrase typically has the connotation of “I’m here if you need me!”

Across Italy as a whole, the way the phrase is looked at tends to differ.

Ciao is primarily considered highly informal, and the reason for this lies in its origins and the historical meaning that comes with it.

In everyday conversation, it’s often used among people who are already close.

If you’re in Italy and conversing with a native speaker, don’t consider it the go-to greeting. It’s a misconception to think that everyone uses it all the time.

Above all, avoid using it in polite company and never use it with strangers.

Due to the level of informality, you won’t want to use this in situations that require any kind of formality.

There are plenty of better terms at your disposal, and ones that require less guesswork for someone who’s not a native speaker.

2. Salve!

Salve is a good choice for when you don’t know where you stand in a conversation, and it’s considered a solid alternative to ciao.

Italian, like many languages, has strong notions of “formal” and “informal” that go back to cultural standards.

Salve, however, is interesting in that it can be considered both polite and informal, depending on the context of the conversation in which it’s being used.

It ought to be said, however, that it does tend to lean towards the formal side of things, so don’t be surprised if someone you’ve known for years doesn’t use it with you.

It’s a good standby for when you’re dealing with a conversation where you’re just not sure, at any time of the day.

3. Buongiorno!

This is another one that many non-Italian speakers might be familiar with.

Literally translated, it means “good day,” but it’s also a pretty standard way of saying “good morning” and greeting people until the early hours of the afternoon

It tends to run a bit on the formal side, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you use this with anyone you already know.

It also doubles as a catch-all way of saying “hello,” but only in the morning and early afternoon.

4. Buon pommerigio!

Buon pommerigio is a standard way of saying “good afternoon” once it starts to get well past the morning.

5. Buonasera!

Buonasera literally translates to “good evening” and that’s exactly what it means.

Use this during that time of day between afternoon and night when people are getting out of work, school, etc. 

6. Buonanotte!

As it gets later into the night, you might want to switch to buonanotte—literally, “good night.”

Regardless of the details, this one and the last two tend to be good choices for anytime past the late afternoon and double up in many of the same ways that buongiorno does.

Most importantly of all, they function as a solid “hello.”

Again, like buongiorno, these terms tend to all lean towards formal conversation. They’re good go-to greetings if you want to come off as polite.

It can sometimes be a little tough to tell exactly which one is appropriate, given that time of day is such a big factor.

Don’t be afraid to go off of what the people around you are using, especially when you want to blend in with native speakers

7. Come va?

As in most languages, introductions in Italian go beyond just “hello” and “goodbye.” There have to be other ways to greet someone.

This one means “how’s it going?” and tends to be a bit informal. 

This is also a great way to start a conversation and get it going beyond the simple greetings.

8. Come stai?

 Similar to the last phrase, this translates to “how are you?” 

If you want to be a bit more respectful in a conversation, using Come sta? makes the phrase sound a bit more formal.

Stai comes from the conjugation of stare (to stay) that’s used for tuSta is the more formal conjugation.

This simple tweak can make a big difference in how you come off to your conversational partner, depending on the tone you’re trying to convey.

Just note that when using these phrases, you’re inviting a variety of potential answers. Be sure to brush up your vocabulary on things such as moods and feelings beforehand, or you might end up lost in a conversation that only just started!

9. Mi chiamo

When you meet a person for the first time, the most important thing to share first is your name. 

Introduce yourself with this simple phrase.

10. Sono di

Letting someone know you’re a visitor or that you relocated from somewhere else is a good ice-breaker.

There’s no need to get fancy with this; just insert where you’re from in English to get the conversation moving.

For example, “Sono di California” (“I’m from California”) works just fine!

11. Piacere di conoscerti! (Nice to meet you!)

If this feels a bit too formal, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “Piacere!” (Pleasure!).

12. Arrivederci (Goodbye)

When you’ve reached the end of your first conversation with your hopefully new friend or business associate, don’t forget to bid them farewell.

You can say ciao to leave a more casual conversation, but arrivederci will be a little bit more formal and make a good impression!

Why Learn Italian Greetings?

You can’t talk to someone if you can’t even greet them.

Sure, saying “hi” is as easy as a wave and a smile—but to start a conversation the right way, it’s important to know what to say and when.

A warm, appropriate introduction can make all the difference when chatting in Italian, especially when you’re focusing on what’s formal versus what’s casual.

Being mindful of these important differences shows respect for the person you’re talking to.

For additional context, try diving into an Italian TV series or using a virtual immersion program.

You can use FluentU to search up videos for specific words and phrases if you want to check how one of these greetings is used by native speakers.

 

When having a chat in Italian, make sure you’re considerate of who you’re talking to and the time and place where you’re speaking.

The right little “hello” can make a big difference!

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close