Abstract The National Environmental Protection Agency of Italy (APAT) performed a soil sampling intercomparison, inviting 14 regional agencies to test their own soil sampling strategies. The intercomparison was carried out at a reference site, previously characterised for metal mass fraction distribution. A wide range of sampling strategies, in terms of sampling patterns, type and number of samples collected, were used to assess the mean mass fraction values of some selected elements. The different strategies led in general to acceptable bias values (D) less than 2 σ, calculated according to ISO 13258. Sampling on arable land was relatively easy, with comparable results between different sampling strategies.