Snakes in Italy

This is likely the Most Stupid Question of the Day, but here goes: Do you see many snakes in Italy?

We're planning a trip there in May 2010 that will involve a lot of hiking in areas like Umbria, the Cinque Terre and Garfangana. A well-intentioned (but slightly neurotic) family friend has told my wife that snakes, particularly venomous adders, are commonplace there. Is this true? Or is it just hype?

We've hiked all over the American Southwest, Rockies, Southeast and Caribbean and have only ever once seen a snake along a trail. Surely, Italy is no different.

Thanks!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10881 posts

It is not the stupidest question of the day But ... consider the source. Yes, they are common to northern Europe including northern Italy but not particularly dangerous. The bite can be painful but mostly likely will not kill you. If you get into more remote areas you might find one but the probability of seeing one is low. They are not aggressive like like some of the North American cousins. The pickpockets in Italy are the snakes that you should be looking for and are far more dangerous.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

Man, don't you just love these "friends" who always fear-monger about pickpockets, ticks, rail strikes, tap water, lack of toilet paper, no rooms on rue Cler, etc., etc. ? And now snakes ? Am I the only one who has friends who only make positive comments about my travel plans? Geez.

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

I've hiked in Italy and have never seen a snake on a hiking trail--or a plane for that matter! Not to worry!

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5761 posts

I imagine you have far more poisonous snakes in North Carolina than they have in Italy. And that's definitely true for the American Southwest.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Yes, there are vipers in Italy, but the Western and Eastern Diamondbacks you're already aware of from your hiking in the SW and SE are more dangerous and venomous. I hiked the CT and never encountered a snake, but we ran across a rattler on a trail outside of Tucson years ago. Don't worry about it. If you were going to Australia for a hiking trip, however, you might have a few things to be concerned about in this area. Enjoy your vacation!

Posted by Chris
Puyallup, WA, USA
881 posts

Go to Ireland. St Patrick did a number on them... ;)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

I've hiked in the Cinque Terre and other areas, and haven't yet seen a single snake. However, there are venomous snakes in many parts of western Europe, so hikers should keep this in mind.

AFAIK there are two types of venomous snakes in Italy, Vipera Aspis & Vipera Berus. Of the two, the venom from Aspis is more of a danger. Both types of snakes have hematoxic venom, which is less dangerous than the neurotoxic venom of more dangerous snakes such as the Cobra family.

I live in an area that's well populated with Rattlesnakes and have found that in most cases they're quite timid and will get out of the way of hikers (they tend to "feel" the vibrations in the ground when people are walking nearby). However, if surprised they may strike without warning.

If you follow reasonable precautions, you should have no problems.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Michael...."Snakes on a Plane" is a movie. This was for real:

Stowaways on Southwest Airlines

Posted by Michelle
Vicenza, Italy
319 posts

I asked my Soldier husband the same thing when we were hiking/walking in Germany the other day. He said that all his safety briefings in both Italy and Germany address dangerous animals. According the the Army there are no snakes to fear in Europe. We do have lots of cute little garden lizards. They are harmless and like to play hide and seek. But if you want an animal to worry about encountering, worry about boars. Fierce momma boars.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6835 posts

Of course had he been flying Ryanair they would force him to pay the last minute fare for the scorpion's air travel!

ba dump pump

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

What in the world happened to Southwest...flying with fuselage fissures, holes in planes, and now scorpions?!? Next thing you know, there will be a bunch of European ticks and mosquitoes on board (or do they have those over there).

Posted by Tim
Raleigh, NC, USA
21 posts

thanks for allaying that concern and helping me save a week's worth of great hikes. we weren't overly concerned - the friend who told my wife that is the type of person who perceives danger every where (if you cough in her presence, she tells you about her aunt who had lung cancer). still, it's a relief to know we can cross this worry off our list and focus on more vexing matters like the dollar-euro exchange rate and Italian train schedules. thanks again.

Posted by Nancy
Taylor, TX, USA
416 posts

Yes, boars would be a much greater concern to me after what I learned about them when visiting my sister in France a few years ago. They are very territorial and have attacked and even killed people. She lived in an area with a lot of wild boars and was very careful about where and when she went jogging.

Posted by Michelle
Vicenza, Italy
319 posts

While my husband was training in Germany a couple years ago, there was a boar vs. humvee incident. Oddly the boar won when it tore up the tire and scared to soldiers enough to keep them in the truck. So yes, avoid boars.

Posted by Tim
Raleigh, NC, USA
21 posts

It's like in Yellowstone National Park, where a lot of guidebooks warn you about the dangers of bears, wolves and rattlesnakes - but the fact is, more visitors there are injured by bison than any other animal.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Completely off topic now, but the previous reply reminded me of a really interesting book I picked up in Yellowstone a few years ago...Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. It really enhanced the trip by adding color to how dumb people can be around wild animals and dangerous terrain.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Michelle,

A Boar vs. Humvee - interesting match. Given that the soldiers were forced to stay in the truck, I'm assuming they were travelling without sidearms?

Posted by Michelle
Vicenza, Italy
319 posts

Ken- The soliders carry guns and all that, but there is a general order to not kill the local wildlife unless it's life or death. A humvee tire isn't a life or death thing. I like that they have that rule. It is a rule in the states too.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Michelle,

Thanks for the clarification on that. I had a relative posted in Germany with the British Army, so I suppose he would have been operating under the same "rules of engagement".