Several recent papers have now provided compelling experimental evidence that the progression of tumours towards a malignant phenotype does not depend exclusively on the cell-autonomous properties of cancer cells themselves but is also deeply influenced by tumour stroma reactivity, thereby undergoing a strict environmental control. Tumour microenvironmental elements include structural components such as the extracellular matrix or hypoxia as well as stromal cells, either resident cells or recruited from circulating precursors, as macrophages and other inflammatory cells, endothelial cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). All these elements synergistically play a specific role in cancer progression. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the role of CAFs in tumour progression, with a particular focus on the biunivocal interplay between CAFs and cancer cells leading to the activation of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition programme and the achievement of stem cell traits, as well as to the metabolic reprogramming of both stromal and cancer cells. Recent advances on the role of CAFs in the preparation of metastatic niche, as well as the controversial origin of CAFs, are discussed in light of the new emerging therapeutic implications of targeting CAFs.