In the palliative care setting, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) was developed for use in daily symptom assessment of palliative care patients. ESAS considers the presence and severity of nine symptoms common in cancer patients: pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, appetite, well-being and shortness of breath plus an optional tenth symptom, which can be added by the patient. The aim of this study was to validate the Italian version of ESAS and to evaluate an easy quality of life monitoring system that uses a patient's self-rating symptom assessment in two different palliative care settings: in-patients and home patients. Eighty-three in-patients and 158 home care patients were enrolled. In the latter group, the Italian validated version of the Symptom Distress Scale (SDS) was also administered at the admission of the patients. The two groups of patients have similar median survival, demographic and clinical characteristics, symptom prevalence and overall distress score at baseline. ESAS shows a good concurrent validity with respect to SDS. The correlation between the physical items of ESAS and SDS was shown to be higher than the correlation between the psychological items. The association of ESAS scores and performance status (PS) showed a trend: the higher the symptom score was, the worse was the PS level. Test-retest evaluation, applied in the in-patient group, showed good agreement for depression, well-being and overall distress and a moderate agreement for all the other items. In conclusion, ESAS can be considered a valid, reliable and feasible instrument for physical symptom assessment in routine "palliative care" clinical practice with a potentially different responsiveness in different situations or care settings.