The objective of this study was to evaluate the degree of underreporting to the Italian National Legionellosis Register (NLR). For the year 2002, all cases of Legionellosis notified to the NLR were compared with cases recorded in the hospital discharge record (HDR) database. The number of unreported cases and the total number of cases in the population were estimated using the capture–recapture method with two independent data sources. Seventeen out of 21 Italian regions participated in the study. Overall, underreporting was estimated to be 21·4% and was found to be significantly greater in the Centre-South (28·2%) than in the North (20·0%). However, even after taking into account the higher degree of underreporting, a significantly lower incidence of the disease is registered in central-southern Italy. The hypothesis, which needs to be verified, is that, in addition to underreporting, under-diagnosis of legionellosis is more widespread in this geographical area.