Background. In recent years, Italy has seen a constant upward trend in the practice of tattooing. The Italian National Health Institute has conducted a national survey to determine the prevalence of tattooed people in Italy and to study related features of the phenomenon. Aim. Establish the prevalence and characteristics of the tattooed population and evaluate awareness of the risks associated with tattoos, which can contribute to consumer health protection. Methods. Computer-assisted telephone interviews and computer-assisted web interviews were completed by a sample of the general population; 7608 people aged between 12 and 75+. Results. The prevalence of tattooed people was 12.8% of the general population in Italy (95% CI: 12.05%-13.55%), equivalent to an estimated 6 900 000 tattooed individuals. Tattoos were more prevalent among women, at 13.8%, while tattooed men accounted for 11.8%. The vast majority of tattooed subjects had decorative tattoos of small dimensions, with a higher prevalence of monochromatic tattoos. Only a minority of tattooed participants reported having cosmetic tattoos (3.0%) or medical tattoos (0.5%). According to the data, 3.3% of tattooed subjects claimed complications or reactions; of these, only 21.3% consulted a dermatologist/general practitioner; more than half (51.3%) did not consult anyone. In general, only 58.2% of the sample were aware of health risks. The Italian survey showed that 36.7% of all tattoos had been performed in the last five years prior to the interview. Conclusions. The estimated prevalence of tattoos in Italy is in agreement with the statistics of the European Union. The prevalence in the age group 35-44 years is almost double that of the Italian population and it is higher in women than in men. Tattooing is relevant to public health. The high number of tattooed Italians, the potential long-term effects on health and the reported complications call for the awareness of health authorities. Appropriate intervention should ensure safer tattooing by reinforcing the training of tattooists, by improving surveillance and by providing information to raise public awareness of the risks and contraindications of tattooing.