Buon giorno! Speak like an Italian

vaporetto venice water bus

Above: The “vaporetto” or “water bus” of Venice.

One of the most important things to remember when you travel to Italy is that Italian reserve ciao as a salutation for friends and family. Buon giorno (good day) and buona sera (good evening) are used in any and all professional settings and when strangers meet and/or interact.

Most don’t realize that if you say ciao to someone you don’t know, it could be interpreted as condescension or an insult. (When you address someone you don’t know with ciao, it implies that you belong to a higher rung in the social ladder. The President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano can say ciao to someone he meets in a shop, for example, but if you or I say ciao to a salesperson in a shop, it will be met with a cold shoulder.)

So whether you dine in a restaurant, visit a retail shop, or buy a ticket for the vaporetto water bus in Venice, always use buon giorno (boo’OHN JOHR-noh) or buona sera (boo’OHN-ah SEH-rah) to greet the waiter, salesperson, or ticket seller.

These expressions can also be used to say good-bye. For the next post in our “speak like an Italian” series, we’ll write about good-byes. 🙂

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