Objective Description of burden, attitudes and received professional support in a sample of relatives of patients with schizophrenia, recruited in 8 Italian Mental Health Sservices (MHS), stratified by geographic areas and population density.Design - Cross-sectional study on key-relatives of clinically stable patients with a DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia. Evaluation of: a) relationships of family burden with patient's clinical characteristics, family's sociodempgraphic variables, relative's attitudes toward the patient, professional and social support received by the family; b) differences in the levels of burden, attitudes and support received by the family with respect to geographical area and population density.Setting - 8 Italian MHS stratified by geographic areas (Northern, Central, Southern Italy) and population density (urban vs. rural areas).Main outcome measures - Patient's clinical status and social functioning: BPRS and ADC. Family burden, attitudes and support received by the family: FPQ.Results - Data on 144 patients and their key-relatives were collected. Higher levels of burden were found among relatives referring to Southern MHS. The burden was found positively correlated with the levels of patients' BPRS positive and manic/hostility symptoms and disability, and with the number of daily hours spent by the relative in contact with the patient, and negatively correlated with the levels of professional support received by the family. Conclusions - The results of this study highlight the need to provide rehabilitative programmes for patients with schizophrenia as well as informative and psychoeducational interventions for their families.