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Ciao or Buongiorno?

Or maybe Salve?

It’s after lunch and I stand at the bar having a caffè macchiato.
One Italian after another comes in to have a coffee, preferably with a Grappa or Montenegro. And they all greet each other – Buonasera, Salve, Ciao, Come va, Come stai, Com’è?
Now I have lived six years in Italy and have gotten a lot better grips on the greetings in Italian. The rule is simple, you always greet each other, even strangers, even those sitting at the table next to you at the trattoria. Even if you do not know each other. The Italian is very, very polite. And you shake hands, when you see each other or take farewell.

The only thing you should consider is ‘Ciao’ is said only to those you know well. Not to fleeting acquaintances or strangers. It is always safe to say ‘Buongiorno’ before lunch and ‘Buonasera’ after lunch. To all. A greeting that works in all weather conditions is ‘Salve’. It can always be used with strangers or acquaintances. But ‘Ciao’ only with close friends.
something I’ve noticed is that they never reply with the same phrase when taking farewell. I would say ‘Buonasera’ when walking out of a store. And they respond with ‘Arrivederci’. I say ‘Buona giornata’ and they answer ‘Salve’. It never fails – just see for yourself…