The aims of this study were to describe the trend of acquired syphilis in the city of Florence and its province over a 7-year period, to investigate sexual behaviours in the syphilis-infected population and to analyse syphilis/HIV co-infection. A total of 259 patients were classified according to age, sex and HIV infection. We estimated that from 2004 to 2008 cases increased by 248%. Most patients with concurrent HIV infection were male (31–45 years), but 40- to 60-year-old men who had sex with men predominated in both male and HIV-positive patients. Oral sex was identified as the most significant route of transmission, although most patients did not consider it so. Late-presenters with HIV accounted for 33% of HIV-positive patients: they were unaware of their HIV status and showed syphilis lesions only. In these cases, syphilis heralded the presence of HIV infection and allowed earlier diagnosis.