The species' common name refers to the markings seen on the body of adult snakes: four dark stripes running along a yellowish brown body. Juveniles, by contrast, have a dorsal series of dark brown blotches with alternating dark brown spots on the sides, all on a pale brown background. A black line runs from the corner of the eye and the belly is cream to white with darker markings.
The Four-lined Snake favours areas with a Mediterranean climate and is found in habitats featuring vegetation, stone walls, sparse woodland, forest margins and deserted buildings. In the winter, individuals spend their time in deserted rodent burrows in groups of four to seven. Their behaviour is generally calmer than that of other snakes (seldom hissing or striking) and they are usually active in the morning and late afternoon. Excellent climbers, they can often be found in the tops of trees.
A large proportion of the snakes' diet consists of small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice. They also feed on birds, lizards, newly hatched tortoises and eggs. Females of the species have been shown to feed more often upon birds than do males