Few population studies are available on epidemiological indexes of hereditary ataxias. An investigation on the prevalence rate of these movement disorders is in progress for the Veneto region, the main area of northeast Italy with a population of 4,490,586 inhabitants. The first results of this epidemiological survey concern the province of Padua, which numbers 845,203 residents (January 1, 2002). The prevalence rate of inherited ataxias has been estimated at 93.3 cases per million inhabitants. The most common types appeared to be the autosomal dominant forms, namely spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 and 2, with a prevalence of 24 per 1,000,000. In the same population, with a prevalence rate of 6 per 1,000,000, Friedreich's ataxia was defined as the prominent recessive autosomal form. There were very rare cases of ataxia telangiectasia, ataxia with vitamin E deficiency and cerebellar ataxia with congenital muscular dystrophy, a recently identified autosomal recessive disease.