One hundred and thirty-eight strains belonging to Micrococcus or Staphylococcus species isolated during the ripening of soppressata molisana, a traditional fermented sausage produced in Southern Italy, were characterized. Fifty-eight isolates belonged to Micrococcus spp. (with a predominance of Micrococcus kristinae), 80 strains belonged to Staphylococcus spp. (with a predominance of Staphylococcus xylosus). Nine percent of staphylococci were coagulase-positive and thermonuclease-negative. No strains of Staphylococcus aureus were isolated. All strains were able to grow in the presence of 10% NaCl; a large majority was able to reduce nitrates to nitrites both at 30 and 18 degrees C. Forty-one percent of the micrococci and 16% of the staphylococci were able to hydrolyze pork fat at 30 degrees C. In skim milk micrococci showed a higher proteolytic activity than staphylococci.