Concentrations of V, Mn, Cd, Zn, Ni, Cr, Co, Cu, Pb, Hg and Sb were measured on 70 topsoil samples collected from green areas and parks in the city of Palermo (Sicily) in order to: (1) assess the distribution of these heavy metals in the urban environment; (2) discriminate natural and anthropic contributions; and (3) identify possible sources of pollution. Mineralogy, physico-chemical parameters, and major element contents of the topsoils were determined to highlight the influence of 'natural' features on the heavy metal concentrations and their distribution. Medians of Pb, Zn, Cu and Hg concentrations of the investigated urban soils are 202, 138, 63 and 0.68 mgkg(-1), respectively. These values are higher, in some case by different orders of size, than those of unpolluted soils in Sicily that average 44, 122, 34 and 0.07 mg kg(-1). An ensemble of basic and multivariate statistical analyses (cluster analysis and principal component analysis) was performed to reduce the multidimensional space of variables and samples, thus defining two sets of heavy metals as tracers of natural and anthropic influences. Results demonstrate that Pb, Zn, Cu, Sb and Hg can be inferred to be tracers of anthropic pollution, whereas Mn, Ni, Co, Cr, V and Cd were interpreted to be mainly inherited from parent materials. Maps of pollutant distribution were constructed for the whole urban area pointing to vehicle traffic as the main source of diffuse pollution and also showing the contribution of point sources of pollution to urban topsoils.