The concentration of cadmium and lead ions was determined in digestive gland and mantle of mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) from five aquaculture stations located in the Gulf of Naples (Southern Italy, Tyrrhenian Sea). Metallothionein (MT) levels in the same tissues were also evaluated. This gulf represents a greatly urbanized area, characterized by an important commercial port and past industrial activities, terminated in the last decade of the 20th century. The results were compared with those obtained from mussels cultivated in a more pristine neighbouring area. Data demonstrate that the amount of both metals found in mussels harvested at the highly anthropogenic sites in the Gulf of Naples was comparable with that found in mussels from the more naturalistic site. The content of both cadmium and lead was not related with that of MT. Indeed, the amount of both metals in the digestive gland was greater than in the mantle, whereas the MT preferentially accumulated in the mantle. Possibly, the MT content in mantle was associated to the physiological function of the tissue, rather than heavy metals exposure.