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Snakes in Italy, Colubridae, Viperidae, Italian poisonous snakes, snake bites, black snakes, white snakes, Whip Snakes, Dark Green Snake, Leopard Snake, Smooth Snakes, Water Snakes, Vipers, Nose-horned Viper, Asp Viper, European Viper, Adders
Italian Aesculapian Snake - Photo: Benny Trapp

Snakes of Italy

Non-poisonous snakes:

There are two main family types of snakes found extensively in Italy. The most common is the 'Whip Snake', which belongs to the family, 'Colubridae '. There are 21 different types of snakes within the 'Colubrids' found in Italy, which are listed at the bottom of the page. None of them are poisonous, although three: the 'Montpellier Snake' (Malpolon monspessulanus), the 'False Smooth Snake' (Macroprotodon cucullatus), and the 'Cat Snake' (Telescopus fallax) all have fangs at the back of their upper jaw. All of these snakes are active during the day (Diurnal) except for the 'Southern Smooth Snake' (Coronella girondica), the 'False Smooth Snake' (Macroprotodon cucullatus) and the 'Cat Snake' (Telescopus fallax), which are all active during the twilight hours (crepuscular). The majority of these species lay eggs, except for the 'Smooth Snake' (Coronella austriaca), which gives birth to live young, born in a membrane.

More about Whipsnakes

Poisonous snakes:

The other type of snake is the 'European Viper', which belongs to the family 'Viperidae'. There are four types: the 'Asp Viper' (Vipera aspis), the 'Nose-horned Viper' (Vipera ammodytes), the 'European Viper' also called the 'Adder' or 'Northern Viper' (Vipera berus) and the 'Orsini's Viper' or 'Field Adder' (Vipera ursinii). All of these snakes are poisonous. They all have true venom glands (thick connective tissue, lumen, compressor musculature and a duct connecting to a fang) and are front-fanged. Vipers are solenoglyphous snakes, as they have a single, enlarged tubular fang on the anterior end of a movable maxillary bone, enabling each maxilla to pivot on a hinge with the prefrontal bone, which is also hinged with the frontal. Together with the musculature, this enables the fangs to be folded backwards when not in use and erected when required. Vipers are very heavy bodied and slow moving, with well defined heads and short tails. Key features are the keeled dorsal body scales, vertical pupil and undivided preanal scale. They are not aggressive unless disturbed and it is extremely inadvisable to handle them due to their potent venom.

More about Vipers

List of Italian Snake Species:



Genus Coluber (Whip Snakes)

Coluber gemonensis (Balkan Whip Snake)
Coluber hippocrepis (Horseshoe Whip Snake Sardinia and Pantellaria only)
Coluber viridiflavus (Western Whip Snake or dark green snake/biacco)

Genus Elaphe (Rat Snakes)
Elaphe lineata (Italian Aesculapian Snake)
Elaphe longissima (Aesculapian Snake)
Elaphe quatuorlineata (Four-lined Snake)
Elaphe situla (Leopard Snake)
Elaphe scalaris (Ladder Snake Very small area of North Western Italy only, literally just overlaps the border)

Genus Coronella (Smooth Snakes)
Coronella austriaca (Smooth Snake)
Coronella girondica (Southern Smooth Snake)

Genus Telescopus (Cat Snakes)
Telescopus fallax (Cat Snake)

Subfamilia Psammophiini
Genus Malpolon

Malpolon monspessulanus (Montpellier Snake)

Subfamilia Boodontini or Lamprophiinae
Genus Macroprotodon

Macroprotodon cucullatus (False Smooth Snake)

Subfamilia Natricinae
Genus Natrix (Water Snakes)

Natrix maura (Viperine Snake)
Natrix natrix (Grass Snake)
Natrix tessellata (Dice Snake)


Subfamilia Viperinae
Genus Vipera (Vipers)

Vipera ammodytes (Nose-horned Viper)
Vipera aspis
(Asp Viper)
Vipera berus (European Viper, or Adder or Northern Viper)
Vipera ursinii (Orsini's Viper or Field Adder)

© Understanding Italy 2008
This article has been especially commissioned for Understanding Italy. Any reproduction of this material, all or in part, is strictly forbidden.

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Snakes in Italy, Colubridae, Viperidae, Italian poisonous snakes, snake bites, black snakes, white snakes, Whip Snakes, Dark Green Snake, Leopard Snake, Smooth Snakes, Water Snakes, Vipers, Nose-horned Viper, Asp Viper, European Viper, Adders

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