This paper deals with the evaluation of the effect of fuel properties on soot formation in a GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine. Experimental investigation was carried out in an optical 4-stroke small single cylinder engine for two-wheel vehicles. The engine displacement was 250 cc. It was equipped with an elongated piston with a wide sapphire window in the head and a quartz cylinder liner. The engine was fuelled with pure gasoline and ethanol, and ethanol/gasoline blends at 20% v/v, 50% v/v and 85% v/v. Optical techniques based on 2D-digital imaging were used to follow the combustion process and soot formation. Spectroscopic measurements were carried out in order to assess the soot evolution. Radical species such as OH and CH, related to fuel quality and to soot formation/oxidation process, were detected.Measurements were carried out at various engine speeds and loads in order to allow optical measurements and to test the engine in real conditions. Regulated gas emissions and opacity were measured at the exhaust by conventional equipment. Moreover, particle emissions were characterized also in terms of number concentration and size distribution using a differential mobility sizer.