Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the third most common cardiovascular disease. Real-life data on the clinical presentation, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of VTE in Italy and Europe are required to optimize the management of this disease. The PREFER in VTE registry, a prospective non-interventional real-life study, was designed to assess clinical characteristics and management of patients with VTE, use of health care resources, and on-treatment patient quality of life. Eligible consecutive patients with objectively diagnosed VTE were enrolled in the registry and followed up for 12 months. Between January and December 2013, 816 Italian and 1027 patients from 6 European countries other than Italy (European patients) were enrolled in the registry, and followed up until December 2014. Italian patients were the oldest (mean age 65.7 years) among the European patients. The Italian patients with a history of cancer were 24.6 % of whom 63.2 % had an active cancer (18.2 and 57.0 %, respectively, in Europe). Parenteral heparin was given, as initial treatment, in 73.8 % of Italian patients (66.4 % in Europe); VKA in combination with other treatments in 45.8 % (34.7 % in Europe); and VKA as the only anticoagulant treatment in 24.4 % (17.2 % in Europe). Of the Italian patients, 43.2 and 90.6 % of patients were hospitalized for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, respectively; 65.4 % were admitted to the hospital through the emergency department. Following a real world approach, PREFER in VTE shows that the Italian patients, among and compared to the European patients, are the oldest, have a history of cancer more commonly, receive an initial treatment with heparin more commonly, and are more commonly hospitalized, particularly if affected by PE.