Below the pass, high Alpine pastures have been used by dairy cattle for summer grazing, making space available at lower altitudes for cultivating and harvesting hay for winter fodder. Many of the high pastures are at altitudes over 1000 meters.
Control of the Brenner Pass was wrested from Verona by Venice in 1178, a vital link to the silver from German mines. The pass was a trackway for mule trains and carts until a carriage road was opened in the 1770s. The railroad was completed in 1867 and is the only transalpine rail route without a major tunnel. Since the end of World War I in 1918, when international borders shifted, control of the pass has been shared between Italy and Austria. Prior to that both sides of the pass were within the Habsburg-ruled Austro-Hungarian Empire. Symbolically, during World War II, the German leader Adolf Hitler and the Italian leader Benito Mussolini met here to publicly celebrate their Pact of Steel on March 18, 1940.
The Europabrücke (Bridge Europe), located just outside of Innsbruck and a few kilometers north of the Brenner Pass, is a large concrete bridge carrying the six-lane autobahn over the valley of the Sill River. At a height of 180 meters and a length of 820 meters, it was celebrated as a masterpiece of engineering upon its completion in 1963.
The heavy freight traffic traveling through the Inn Valley to reach the Brenner Pass, polluting this scenic area, causes much debate in regional and European politics. About 1.8 million trucks crossed the Europa Bridge in 2004.
In order to ease the road traffic, there are plans to upgrade the railroad from Verona to Innsbruck with a series of tunnels, including the Brenner Base Tunnel under the Brenner Pass. Work started in 2006.
Tolls are collected at Brenner Pass for traffic going to and coming from Italy. The fee starts at €7.95 each way.