Since the exclusion of somatic causes is necessary for somatoform disorders (SMD) to be diagnosed, there is little information on the prevalence of such disorders in the community. As the method we have previously developed [general practitioners (GPs) with psychiatric training who interview samples representative of the general population] seemed to be appropriate to deal with the problem, we carried out a community survey focused on somatoform disorders. The prevalence rates of DSM-III-R somatoform disorders were studied in two wards of the city of Florence. In order to be representative of the general population, 673 subjects randomly selected were interviewed by their own GP. Four GPs, all with specific training in psychiatry, participated in the interviewing process. The 1-year prevalence figures were as follows: 0.7% body dysmorphic disorder; 4.5% hypochondriasis; 0.6% somatoform pain disorder; 0.3% conversion disorder; 0.7% somatization disorder; 13.8% undifferentiated somatoform disorder. No specific comorbidity was found between somatoform disorders and mood or anxiety disorders. Although the sample investigated was small, this study may be seen as one of the first in an area where knowledge is still scant. The prevalence rates of somatoform disorders were generally found to be slightly lower than expected.