How Do People in Italy Answer the Phone?

Are you on vacation in Italy and are getting ready to call a restaurant in Bolzano to make dinner reservations? 

Are you waiting for a phone call from your new Italian neighbor?

Do you have your mobile phone by your side in case the handsome Italian boy from the disco finally calls you?

If you’re in any of these situations, you’re probably wondering, ‘how do people in Italy answer the phone?’

You may also want to read about How to Call Italy from the US or Canada.

How Do People in Italy Answer the Phone?

Graphic speech bubble showing 'pronto,' the way Italians answer the phone.

People in Italy answer the phone with “pronto,” which means ready, or ready to speak.  Using “pronto” originates from manually operated calls – when the operator made the connection, it was “pronto” or ready, and the speaking could begin.

Many people expect that Italians would answer with “ciao” (hello), but “pronto” is the standard way that people in Italy answer the phone.

Why Do Italians Say Pronto?

Photo of switchboard operator from the past connecting a call.  She is saying 'pronto' with a graphic speech bubble.

As mentioned above, answering the phone with “pronto” dates back to when calls were manually connected by an operator.

In the past, you would call the central operator and tell who you wanted to call.  Then, the operator would connect to the other line.  When the lines were connected, the operator would tell you “pronto,” as in the call is ready. 

Nowadays, we make calls without operators, but the tradition of answering the phone with “pronto” remains. 

Do Italian Women Say Pronta When Answering the Phone in Italy?

Graphic speech bubble with 'pronta' covered by a large red 'x' because it isn't used to answer the phone in Italy.

You may be wondering if women answer the phone with “pronta,” the feminine version of the masculine “pronto.”

No, women in Italy also answer the phone with “pronto.”  Why?  Because pronto when answering the phone refers to the phone and phone connection being ready, not the person. 

Other Ways to Answer the Phone in Italy

There are times in Italy you may answer the phone without using “pronto:”

Answering From an Italian Mobile Phone

If you’re answering a call on your mobile phone, you usually see the name of the caller.  If this is the case, you can address the caller directly with a “Ciao!” or “Ciao, Marco” or “Buongiorno Signor Poli.” 

This is especially common amongst teens and the younger generations.

Of course, if you don’t know who is calling, a “pronto” is appropriate.

Good To Know:  Ciao is best used in situations when you know the other person.  Read our article on Ciao’s Meaning and When You Can Use It to find out more.

Answering From an Italian Business

Some Italian businesses have adopted the more formal way of answering the phone with the name of the business and asking how they can be of service.  For example:

Buongiorno, Sole Viaggi.  Come posso aiutarLa?
Good day, you’ve reached Sole Viaggi.  How may I help you?

Answering a Work or Formal Call

If you’re expecting a work call or a call for a more formal occasion, you can answer with a greeting or a greeting and your full name:

Buongiorno.
Good day.

Buongiorno, Cristoforo Colombo.
Good day, Cristoforo Colombo speaking.

How to Respond to Pronto on the Phone

So, you’ve called someone in Italy, and she’s answered the phone with “pronto.”  Now what?  You can respond in a few different ways, including:

Greet the person, introduce yourself, and explain why you’re calling:

Buongiorno, sono Marco.  Sto chiamando per prenotare una camera matrimoniale per il 17 agosto.
Good day, I’m Marco.  I’m calling to reserve a room with a queen bed for the 17th of August.

Ask to speak to someone:

Posso parlare con Camilla?
Can I speak with Camilla?

Ask if the person speaks English:

Parla inglese? 
Do you speak English (formal)?

Ending Your Phone Call in Italy

So, you made it through the call.  Congratulazioni (congratulations)! 

What do you say now?  Depending on what your call was about, you might want to say:

ItalianPronunciationEnglish translation
GrazieGRAHT-see-ehthank you
Buona giornataBWOHN-ah jor-NAH-tuhhave a great day
Buona serataBWOHN-ah SEHR-ahhave a great evening
Ci vediamo líchee veh-dee-AH-moh leesee you there
Arrivederciah-ree-veh-DEHR-cheegoodbye (formal)

Or, like many Italians, finish with a parade of ‘ciaos.’  Ciao, ciao-ciao, ciao, ciao, ciaooooo.

An Italian Phone Call

Phone rings.ITALIANENGLISH
SARA:Pronto.Hello.
MARCO:Ciao Sara, sono Marco.Hi Sara, it’s Marco.
SARA:Ciao Marco!Hi Marco!
MARCO:Vuoi andare al cinema?Do you want to go to the cinema?
SARA:Si, ci vediamo lì.Sure, see you there.
MARCO:Perfetto! Ciao!Perfect! Bye!
SARA:Ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao…Bye, bye, bye, bye…

Other Ways Pronto is Used in Italian

Pronto isn’t only used for answering the phone in Italy. You may also hear the word in other situations:

Being ready:

Siete pronti?  Andiamo!
Are all of you ready?  Let’s go!

È pronta la cena?
Is dinner ready?

Being willing:

Sono pronta per auitarti con quella valigia pesante.
I’m ready to help you with that heavy suitcase.

È pronta la cena?
Is dinner ready?

In a race:

Pronti? Partenza…. Via!
Ready? Get set… Go!

When something is quick, prompt, or fast:

Giorgio è caduto. Dobbiamo andare al pronto soccorso!
Giorgio fell. We need to go to the emergency department!

Il cameriere ha reflessi pronti!
The waiter has quick reflexes!

Good To Know: It’s easy to confuse pronto with presto. Presto means ‘soon.’

Useful Words and Phrases for Italian Phone Calls

Italian*English
Qual’e’ il tuo/il suo numero di telefono?What’s your phone number?
Il mio numero di telefono e…My phone number is…
Ti/La chiamo piu tardi. I’ll call you later.
Ti/La richiamo. I’ll call you back.
Mi chiamo…My name is…
Chi parla? Who’s calling/speaking?
Con chi parlo?Who am I speaking with?
Posso parlare con…? May I speak with…?
Hai/Ha sbagliato numero. You have the wrong number.
Non ti/le posso sentire.I can’t hear you.
Vuoi/Vuole lasciare un messaggio?Would you like to leave a message?
Si, dimmi/mi dica. Yes, go ahead.
Aspetta un attimo, per favore.Wait just a moment, please.
Buona giornata.Have a great day.
Ciao/Arrivederci.Goodbye
chiamareto call
chiamataphone call
numero (di telefono)phone number
cellulare/telefoninomobile/cell phone
telefonotelephone
*When you see words separated by a ‘/’ it indicates the informal/formal way to say the phrase

Now that you know how people in Italy answer the phone, you’re ready (pronto) to make or receive a call!