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Italy, Poisonous Spiders & Venomous Snakes.


Poisonous and venomous snakes, spiders, and bugs in Italy.

Italy is a beautiful country and nearly all holidays and vacations go by without hindrance or problems from the local wildlife.

BUT.. there have been several vacations which have turned into something disastrous and almost fatal. There are many biting insects which can give a person nasty puncture wounds and possibly kill a human.

Snake bites are rare, but they do happen to the unsuspecting tourist in the country and without vital anti-venom's, your life could either be over or changed completely. Italy, world renowned for fantastic food and expensive wine, less known for the countries venomous snakes, poisonous spiders and stinging insects.

Always be alert as to the dangers on the land as well as in the sea.


Are there poisonous snakes in Italy ? the answer is yes.

Italy has many different types of snakes, although most of them are shy and usually shear away from human habitation. Unless provoked or agitated, they usually do not attack humans. The most poisonous and deadly snakes seen by tourists on vacation in Italy belong to the viper family.


Asp Viper

This snake can reach 85 cm in length, that is less than three feet long, but the venom packs a powerful punch.

Approximately 4% of untreated bites result in death the Asp viper snake is meant to be responsible for 90% of all snakes bites reported in Italy, many of which are on unsuspecting tourists whilst on vacation.

If a person has been bitten by this poisonous snake, pain around the bite area will be quick to take hold, followed by severe pain spreading throughout the body. Vision may become impaired as the venom spreads through the blood system. Difficulty in breathing and swallowing may follow as well as death through renal failure.

This venomous snakes loves vegetation and is usually found basking in the sun on low mountains or plains. Whilst on vacation to Italy, always seek medical attention if bitten by any type of snake.


Horned Viper

This venomous snake is found in many parts of Europe with its fangs growing to 13mm in length. The Horned viper snake can grow up to 95 cm in total length and the females are usually slightly smaller.

Their most distinctive character is the single 'horn' protruding from the snout. The snake ranges in color from dark brown through gray / grey to black in a zigzag pattern.

The venom produced by this snake is very toxic based on experiments using mice, but does vary between species and areas and is neurotoxic.

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Localized pain, swelling, and redness will occur within moments of being bitten around the bite area. Dizziness and possible blackouts may occur with a tingling sensation around the body.

This type of venom can attack the nervous system and cause nausea, muscle spasms, as well as possible death through cardiac arrest.

Many peasants in the past were killed through the lack of available anti-venom. Modern medical centres carry a stock of the anti-venom for inhabitants of Italy and fool hardy people on vacation who get to close to a basking snake.

NB: Never run from a snake, always walk calmly away.



Italy is a sub-tropical country where the heat can attract a multitude of insects, reptiles and arachnids from around the globe. There are many large spiders in Italy, but most are harmless, although they do bite.

The formidable Tarantula ( Tarantola ) has also made Italy its home, just looking at some of these rather large spiders can give a person on vacation a fright.

The danger does not necessarily come from the venom, but from a possible allergic reaction to the bite. Children and the elderly, as well as people whom have been sick for a while and have a low immune system, are more at risk.

If after being bitten, redness, swelling, or itchiness appears away from the bite area, the person may be allergic. This can be fatal if medical assistance is not sought rapidly. If possible, always take the insect, snake, or spider responsible for the injury to the hospital ( alive or dead ) it will help medics give the correct anti-venom or drugs.


Violin Spider

This long legged brown spider is only approximately 1.5 cm in diameter, and is named after the visible dark violin shape on the front of its body. Bites from this venomous spider usually cause significant pain and swelling in the puncture area which can take on a bluish color.

Within two days, blisters may appear around the bite area. As well as the victim suffering from chills, tremors, and fever the victim could also possibly go into a state of shock. The bite has been known to be fatal, but only very rarely, but it does happen.

Also referred to as the Brown Recluse Spider, the wounds by this shy spider can appear to melt the bitten area unless treated. Wounds as wide as 10cm have been recorded.

This spider is a threat to tourists on vacations. but prefers not to bite if possible. Man and this spider have been known to live in harmony for many years without a single incident. But...there are also many reports throughout Europe of this spider causing horrific injuries when people are bitten and do not seek medical attention.

Free Link: Massive injures from the Italian Brown Recluse Spider- Graphic Images

Processional caterpillars

Processional caterpillars have been a pest for decades. Only approximately 1" in length, this caterpillar travels in large groups and moves in straight lines. Walking nose to toe, a whole nest will travel in the evening seeking food.

They nest in fir trees in Europe, and in Oak trees in England. The nest is the size of a football and appears to be like white candy-floss. Thousands of nests can be seen from November until February / March throughout forests, childrens parks, and along roads.

The hairs on the caterpillars are released should a predator come close. Each hair has minute traces of a defensive substance which can make animal and human skin rash and swell.

Many pets have died after sniffing at the processional caterpillars and died from asphyxiation after their throats have swollen. Children in parks only need to pass close to them for the hair to lodge into the child's skin. Medical attention is required immediately in the form of a tablet or injection.

Trail of processional caterpillars

Trail of processional caterpillars

Personally, I have taken down a nest, poured petrol on it and set fire to it. 20 minutes later, I chopped open the charred nest and hundreds of live caterpillars came flooding out.

The heat had been absorbed by the first few layers of caterpillars whom died, the rest lived safe from the heat. Even in a petrol fire.

Caterpillar nest

Caterpillar nest

The Spanish government has spent millions on attempting to eradicate or at least prevent the spread of this pest, but to no avail. Some forests and parks have been closed during the processional caterpillar season due to the quantity of nests.

Year after year, the caterpillar numbers increase and spread through Europe. Poisoning, burning, and all other methods of destruction kill almost billions every year, but yet they still spread.

Hibernation can last for three years, they will only emerge and breed if the temperatures are right.


NB. Cheap vacations to Italy promise a fantastic time with perfect temperatures, excellent cuisine, and friendly locals.

Do not be put off from going to Italy on holiday, just be vigil whilst in the more rural areas. Honeymoon packages as well as family holidays are available throughout the year.

Happy holidays.

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Warning: Killer Caterpillars Spread To Italy ( FREE LINK )


Justina Janeliunaite on June 17, 2020:

Interesting article and true. Italy is a beautiful destination, but one needs to be careful of some creatures. I actually encountered a black widow spider in Italy, in a garden. Small, actually beautifully colored, but can be deadly.

Raven on November 03, 2017:

And my fiancé is from Italy and after our wedding and honeymoon we are moving back to his home town

Daveince on September 13, 2017:

I have just returned from Tuscany where, during the night, in bed, I was bitten on the shoulder by a Violin spider.

The bite itself was not painful at the time but by the next morning it was swollen and blistered. These continued to erupt for the next few days and were both itchy and painful. My glands under my arm became quite swollen too.

The best was to treat these bites is by bathing the wound and surrounding area with sterile dressing soaked with a Chlorine solution (available in all Farmacie) for 10 minutes twice daily after which Gentomycine with antihistamine ointment should be applied.

I would mention that I grew up in Italy and this is the first time I have ever even heard of people being bitten by this spider. They are actually very placid and I totally understand why it bit me. It was somehow in my bed and I probably lay on it !!! Don't worry the chances of a bite are very I repeat VERY rare.

Jessica on May 02, 2017:

This is very helpful, thank you. I actually went on a trip to Italy this summer and got bitten by a snake. I wasn't aware which one it was, and the doctors from the hospital I was treated had no clue either. But based on this information I think it was the asp viper. Well, anyways, thank you

Fiona on July 18, 2013:

We did encounter an aggressive snake whilst walking in the hills in Liguria. It was an Asp viper with an arrowhead and came out from the undergrowth onto the path and moved like lightening towards my young daughter. I ran towards it to protect her and it came towards me, so I ran back and it went off into the undergrowth. Now truly terrified of snakes. I've seen 3 adders in the wild in Scotland with no fear. This incident changed that. We are heading back to Italy in 2 weeks...and planning more walking. :-(

tastiger04 on July 03, 2013:

Very interesting, I definitely do not want to run into that horned viper! voted up

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