When you first start learning Italian, you can mostly get by with a simple ciao and the occasional buongiorno or arrivederci. And if you're anything like me, you can continue getting by like that for a while.
But eventually we need to branch out a bit. And it would be a shame not to, since Italian gives us so many different greetings to choose from.
We all know that we shouldn't say ciao or even arrivederci to the doctor. or to that guy in the comune with the all-important stamps – the more respectful arrivederla comes in handy then.
And who can resist throwing a salve into the mix? Not only is it fairly polite, but using it makes you feel like an ancient Roman.
But I was confounded by addio. Do people actually use it in speech? And if so, when? Is it anything like the Spanish adios? And will Italians look at me (even more) strangely if I use it?
You might hear it in the phrase addio al celibato/nubilato – meaning a stag or hen party (or bachelor/bachelorette for our readers in the US.) While that sounds a lot like “goodbye to celibacy”, it would better translate as “farewell to the single life”.
In fact, farewell is the best translation for addio. Dated, slightly formal, and usually filled with drama, sadness, or irony.
Addio has a definitive air about it – it's practically a parting of the ways.
You might hear it at funerals, or when a relationship ends.
In romantic films or books dirsi addio can mean saying a definite goodbye.
– In realtà, è un addio per sempre.
– Actually, it's goodbye forever.
You'll also hear it used ironically. For example, when a much-disliked politician resigns Italian Twitter will quickly fill up wth comments about il lungo addio (the long goodbye.)
Or you could say something like:
– se arrivano i bambini, addio pace!
– if the children turn up, that'll be the end of our peace and quiet!
At the theatre, the final performance of a show is called the serata d'addio.
Addio is a little like the Spanish adios, though that's still commonly used, usually when you don't expect to see the person again soon.
But it's much more like the French adieu; dramatic and rarely deployed.
And the answer to my final question turned out to be a definite yes: if you use addio to say goodbye, Italians will most definitely look at you strangely. Perhaps they'll think you're breaking up with them, or going back to your home country for good.
If you are, then addio might actually be appropriate. Otherwise it's way too poetic – and final.
In most cases you're better off sticking with common goodbye phrases like ci sentiamo, a dopo, or just good old ciao.
Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.