An evaluation of the grain functional components of Italian durum wheat cultivars was conducted. The raw material was obtained from the field trial performed in 2006-2007 at the Experimental Farm of the University of Bologna, (Bologna, Italy). The aim of this study was to define the phytochemical profile of ten varieties, comprised of old and modern durum wheat genotypes, including quantitative and qualitative phenolic and flavonoid content (free and bound forms). The results showed that mean values of total phenolic compound and total flavonoid content in old wheat varieties (878.2+/-19.0 micromol gallic acid equivalent/100g of grain and 122.6+/-25.4 micromol catechin equivalent/100g of grain, respectively) did not differ significantly from those detected in modern genotypes (865.9+/-128.9 micromol gallic acid equivalent/100g and 123.5+/-20.6 micromol catechin equivalent/100g, respectively). However, the HPLC-ESI-TOF-MS analysis highlighted remarkable differences between modern and old cultivars. The interpretation of the mass spectra allowed the identification of 70 phenolic compounds, including coumarins, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, flavones, isoflavones, proanthocyanidins, stilbenes and lignans. The free extracts of ancient wheat varieties showed the presence of a mean number of phenolic compounds and isomer forms (8.7+/-2.5 and 7.7+/-4.7 respectively) significantly higher than in modern genotypes (4.4+/-2.9 and 2.0+/-2.4, respectively). A similar trend was observed also for the bound phenolic fraction. Moreover, the phytochemical profiles showed the presence of unique phenolic compounds in both free and bound fractions of some of the investigated wheat genotypes. Results highlighted that investigated old wheat cultivars may offer unique nutraceutical values for their peculiar contents in bioactive phytochemicals, suggesting their uses into a wide range of regular and specialty products naturally enriched with health-promoting compounds.