BACKGROUND The epidemiology of cardiovascular risk (CV) in the elderly is far from being defined, and the reasons why some subjects retain a healthy body while growing old while others are affected by different diseases or die prematurely are still unknown. AIMS To compare the CV risk pattern in two elderly cohorts living in North-East Italy. MATERIALS AND METHODS The Risk Of Vascular complications: Impact of Genetics in Old people (ROVIGO) study is a population-based study including 580 unrelated elderly subjects representative of general population living in Rovigo in the Veneto region. They were compared to a cohort of 580 age-gender-matched unrelated subjects from the CArdiovascular STudy in the Elderly (CASTEL) living in the same region in Castelfranco Veneto and Chioggia. RESULTS Blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, and prevalence of coronary heart disease, heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease were lower in the ROVIGO than in the CASTEL cohort, while high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and the prevalence of diabetes were higher in the former than in the latter. In the ROVIGO cohort, diabetes, left ventricular hypertrophy, coronary and cerebrovascular diseases were more represented in men. In the CASTEL cohort, systolic BP was higher in women. In both cohorts, the lipid pattern was less favourable and HR higher in women, chronic pulmonary disease more represented in men. CONCLUSIONS People living in Rovigo were at lower CV risk than those in Castelfranco Veneto and Chioggia, mainly due to lower BP values, better lipid pattern and lower prevalence of CV and pulmonary disease.