Saluti : Getting confused with the many ways to greet people when you are in Italy? I understand! I can’t blame you!
So just a quick recap for you: BUONGIORNO, is Good morning, and you use it whenever you greet someone in the morning until about 3 PM. Also, you can use BUONGIORNO when you enter a place while you may use BUONA GIORNATA when you leave. This is equivalent to “Have a good day”, which can be said when you cross someone in the street or when leaving a shop , a home etc.
POMERIGGIO o SERA?
After 3 PM until about 6 PM is BUON POMERIGGIO and right after 6 you can safely use BUONA SERA (Good evening) with the same expression BUONA SERATA ( have a good evening!). As a matter of fact, for this kind of greeting, you can decide to use another expression that you hear at any time of the day: BUONA CONTINUAZIONE. This is an easy phrase to say whenever you wish someone to happily carry on with whatever they are doing.
BUONA SERA is the greeting that you can use up to late at night.
BUONA NOTTE in fact is only used when wishing someone good night, meaning that he/she is about to go home for the night or go to bed.
So, if you go out for dinner, you greet all your friends at the restaurant with Buona sera a tutti!!! And only when leaving the restaurant to go home you say Buona notte ragazzi! If you decide to go home but they continue their night out with theatre, a movie or anything else you may wish them Buona serata or Buona continuazione!
Finally what about the universal CIAO? Remember that this is informal, so I wouldn’t suggest using it with anyone older that you don’t know at all.
CIAO can be widely used among young people and with whoever you know well (no matter their age). CIAO is super easy as it is the same whether you get in or get out of a place. If …the age difference and the degree of familiarity with someone is leaving you uncertain…go for the generic SALVE! It’s my best choice whenever I feel confused! ☺ It happens to Italians as well so, do not worry too much!