Completed suicide is associated with marital status; being unmarried is associated with a higher suicide rate as compared with being married or living with a partner. Moreover, the region of origin may be particularly important when trying to explain major inequalities in suicide rates across a country. Data were obtained from the Italian Database on Mortality, collected by the Italian Census Bureau (ISTAT) and processed by the Italian National Institute of Health-Statistics Unit. The Italian population in the last Italian census (October 2001) was used to estimate age-standardized mortality rates from suicide by marital status (ICD-9 revision: E950-959) and "natural" causes (ICD-9 revision: 0-280; 320-799). Rate Ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using married individuals as a reference. All analyses were conducted separately for men and women for 2000-2002, the most recent years with data available. Logistic regression analysis was used to compare differences by marital status for suicide versus death from natural causes. There are major inequalities in suicide rates in Italy. The North region has the highest suicide rates both for married and non-married individuals. Sardinia Island has the highest male suicide rate in Italy-23.07 per 100,000 per year-compared with the average national male suicide rate of 13.80, a difference which is significantly higher by 67% (RR: 1.67; 95%CI = 1.40-1.99). In contrast, Sardinia has one of the lowest female suicide rates among the Italian regions, close to that of the South and the Center regions. The North-East is the only region where the suicide rate among divorced men is significantly higher than that of married men. In the South, widowers have the highest suicide rate, with a rate 6-times that of married men (RR = 5.66; 95%CI = 4.46-7.18). Major inequalities in suicide rates by region may derive from different socio-cultural backgrounds, confirming the notion that suicide is a multifaceted phenomenon. The results of the present study indicate that suicide prevention must take into account the social and cultural characteristics of different communities. Moreover, these findings support the notion that marital status may play a central role in influencing suicide.