Brenner Pass

Brenner Pass

Brenner Pass, Ital. Brennero, Alpine pass, 4,495 ft (1,370 m) high, connecting Innsbruck, Austria, with Bolzano, Italy. The lowest of the principal Alpine passes, it was an important Roman route through which many invasions of Italy were made. A long carriage road was built c.1772, and the railroad was completed in 1867. The pass became the border between Italy and Austria after World War I. During World War II, Hitler and Mussolini held three meetings there. Today the Brenner Highway, constructed in the early 1970s, is one of the major roads between Austria and Italy.
Brenner Pass (Italian: Passo del Brennero; German: Brennerpass; Latin: Brennus Mons) is a mountain pass through the Alps along the border between Italy and Austria, and is one of the principal passes of the Alps. It is the lowest (1370 m) and easiest of the Alpine passes, and one of the few in the Tyrol region. For that reason possession of the pass has long been coveted.

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.


The Romans regularized the traditional crossing that memorializes the local tribe of the Brennii. The road to the Roman province of Raetia led from Verona and Tridentum (Trento) across the pass down to Oenipons (Innsbruck) following the river Inn and thence to Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg). Heading southward through the Brenner Pass the Alamanni crossed into Italy in 268, to be stopped in November at the Battle of Lake Benacus.

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 motorway E 45 (European designation; in Italy A 22, in Austria also called A 13) leading from Innsbruck via Bolzano to Verona and Modena uses this pass, and is one of the most important north-south connections in Europe. Even with the removal of customs, the long traffic jams before the Brenner Pass are dreaded by Northern Europeans who want to spend their holidays on the Mediterranean coast.

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.

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