Genetic variation was investigated in 17 populations of the Italian endemic Apennine yellow-bellied toad using both mitochondrial (598 bp of the cytochrome b gene) and nuclear (21 allozyme loci) markers. Populations from central Calabria (southern Italy) showed the highest levels of intrapopulation genetic variation, whereas samples located north of this region were nearly lacking in variation. This appears to be a typical pattern of ‘southern richness and northern purity’, usually attributed to the prolonged population stability within southern refugia coupled with the loss of variation during postglacial northward expansion. However, the overall pattern of genetic variation observed has a strong geographical component, suggesting two Calabrian plains, Catanzaro and Crati-Sibari, as historical barriers to dispersal separating three population groups. These findings cannot be explained by the prolonged stability of southern populations alone, and suggest that the southern richness has been at least in part shaped by allopatric differentiation within the refugial range, followed by intermixing of previously differentiated lineages. From a conservation standpoint, Calabria is the major genetic diversity reservoir for this species, thus deserving particular conservation efforts. Furthermore, although the low intrapopulation genetic variation outside Calabria appears to be of clear historical origin, evidence of a current reduction of gene flow suggests that human disturbance has also played a part, particularly in the anthropogenic impacted Volturno river drainage basin.