The epidemic dimensions of non-dialysis chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the associated elevated cardiovascular risk as well as the high costs of renal replacement therapy have made the identification of CKD patients and the quantification of CKD-related comorbidities a key priority in the strategies of public health agencies worldwide. Information on the CKD prevalence at a national level is still lacking in Italy, although these data are critical for planning preventive strategies and increasing the awareness of CKD as a major chronic disease. In 2008 the CARHES (CArdiovascular risk in Renal Patients of the Italian Health Examination Survey) study was started. The study - a joint venture between the Italian Society of Nephrology, the Italian Society of Cardiologists, and the National Health Institute-Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Project - will integrate the previously collected information on the cardiovascular risk profile of the adult Italian population provided by the Health Examination Survey (HES) with epidemiological data on CKD. The initial results on approximately half of the prospective sample of 9020 subjects aged 35-79 years suggest a lower CKD prevalence than that reported in other countries. The final results will allow to estimate the level of CKD in Italy and hopefully increase the awareness of this high-risk chronic disease among Italian physicians and health authorities.