Reflecting a complex set of interactions with its host, Salmonella spp. require multiple genes for full virulence. Many of these genes are found in 'pathogenicity islands' in the chromosome. Salmonella typhimurium possesses at least five such pathogenicity islands (SPI), which confer specific virulence traits and may have been acquired by horizontal transfer from other organisms. We highlight recent progress in characterizing these SPIs and the function of some of their genes. The role of virulence genes found on a highly conserved plasmid is also discussed. Collectively, these packages of virulence cassettes are essential for Salmonella pathogenesis.