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In the modern version of Alfa Romeo’s logo, it’s a bit harder to see. But, yes, on the right side of the inner circle there is green snake. That green snake is, indeed, eating a man. Where did that weird detail in a car company logo come from?

A (brief) history of Alfa Romeo

An Alfa Romeo badge on an Alfa Romeo 8C car
An Alfa Romeo badge on an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B | Emilio Andreoli via Getty Images

Alfa Romeo was founded in 1910 in Milan, Italy as the Societa Italiana Automobili Darraq ini Napeles, but then became Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, or A.L.F.A. in Milan, the industrial center of Itlay. The original badge simply had the words ALFAMILANO. When engineer Nicola Romeo took over, he added his name, and the badge said ALFA-ROMEO MILANO. Romeo took the company racing, and helped it design its first groundbreaking racing cars and consumer cars.

In 1933 after WWI, the company was purchased by the state, and it hired a young Enzo Ferrari and his Scuderia Ferrari to head up its racing efforts. After WWII it was demilitarized, and the company began several successful years in Formula 1 and later started producing road cars. As the company grew and changed, its logo did, too. The Quadrofoglio on cars like the 2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia is a different story.

What is the Visconti Serpent

The Visconti Serpent on a cafe sign in Milan
A ign with the Visconti biscione, or serpent, at Antico Caffè Brera in Milan, Italy | Federico Magi via Getty Images

Fans of the Inter Milan football club will instantly recognize the snake, which was its logo for many years. The Art Post says that the design was originally a snake consuming a child. Apparently, during the Second Crusade, Ottone Visconti led a Milanese army on a siege of Jerusalem and defeated Saracen Voluce in a duel. Saracen’s family crest included the snake eating a man, and Ottone took it has his own.

There are many origin stories for this unique symbol that’s on the the Duchy of Milan’s flag. One says that the “biscione,” or grass snake on the logo is actually birthing, not devouring, a man. Regardless, it’s common and appears on many signs and monuments in Milan.

The Red and white cross comes from Milan’s patron saint

An Alfa Romeo logo showing the flag of Milan and a snake eating a man
An ALFA ROMEO logo from the 1980s | Artur Widak via Getty Images

The other Milan football club, AC Milan, uses the other half of the Alfa Romeo logo as its own. The red-and-white cross on a white background. Though it looks like St. Geroge’s Cross, in Alfa Romeo and Milan’s case, it’s the cross of St. Ambrose, the patron saint of the city. In some cases, the two stripes align in the center, and sometimes, like on Alfa’s logo, the two lines converge to the right of the center.

The Alfa Romeo Logo has evolved through the years

The logo on the front of Zho Guanyu's Alfa Romeo car
Zhou Guanyu of China’s Alfa Romeo Formula 1 car | Mark Thompson via Getty Images

Through the years Alfa Romeo updated its badge to reflect company milestones. For example, in 1925 it added a golden laurel crown to reflect winning the first World Championship in motor racing. After WWII, according to Alfa, the badge turned all red because the badge-making machines were destroyed. However, it returned to a multi-color badge in 1950.

It had small updates in 1972 and 1982, and then again in 2015 on everything from humble Alfettas to fun GTV cars. On the company’s Formula 1 cars and new SUVS today the logo is stylized with just the flag and the serpent. But, through it all, the snake has always devoured a man, and the flag of Milan has flown proudly on the front of every single Alfa Romeo car.


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