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Brenner Pass

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Brenner Pass

Brenner Pass
View between the top of the pass and Gries am Brenner
Elevation 1,370 m (4,495 ft)
Traversed by E45 motorway
Location AustriaItaly border
Range Alps
Brenner Pass is located in Alps
Brenner Pass
Brenner Pass
Location of Brenner Pass
The Brenner Pass, one of the most important transit routes between Northern and Southern Europe.
Brenner and surrounding Roman road network in Tabula Peutingeriana. Brenner is between Matreio and Vepiteno.

Brenner Pass (German: Brennerpass; Italian: Passo del Brennero) is a mountain pass through the Alps along the border between Italy and Austria. It is one of the principal passes of the Alps and the lowest of the Alpine passes within the area. Gaining possession of this pass, for the above reason, was long coveted in history.

Across the valleys beneath the pass and in the mountains above it, the Alpine pastures are used by dairy cattle for summer grazing. In the lower altitudes, farmers deforest pine trees, undertake agricultural cultivation and harvest hay for winter fodder. Many of the high pastures are at an altitude of over 1,000 metres; a small number of them stands high in the mountains at around 2,000 metres.

The central section covers the motorway and railway tracks connecting Vipiteno/Sterzing in the south and Innsbruck to the north. The village of Brenner at the pass consists of a few supermarkets, fruit stores, outlet shopping centres, cafes, hotels and a gas station (after crossing the border into Austria). It has a population of 400 to 600 (as of 2011).


Prenner was originally the name of a nearby farm which derived from its former owner. The farm of a certain Prennerius is mentioned in documents in 1288, a certain Chunradus Prenner de Mittenwalde is mentioned in 1299. The name Prenner is traced back to the German word for somebody who clears woodland. A name for the pass itself appears for the first time in 1328 as ob dem Prenner (German for above the Prenner).[1]


Roman Empire

The Romans regularized the mountain pass at Brenner, which had already been under frequent use during the prehistoric eras after the most recent Ice Age.[2] Brenner Pass, however, was not the first trans-Alpine Roman road to become regularised under the Roman Empire. The first Roman road, Via Claudia Augusta, connecting Verona in northern Italy with Augusta Vindelicorum (modern-day Augsburg) in the Roman province of Raetia. Via Augusta was completed in 46–47 AD; the route took its course along the Adige valley to Reschen Pass (west of Brenner Pass), then descended into the Inn valley before rising to Fern Pass and arriving at Augsburg.

The Roman road that crossed over Brenner Pass did not exist until the 2nd century AD. It took the eastern route through the Puster Valley and descended into Veldidena (modern-day Wilten), where it crossed the Inn and into Zirl and arrived at Augsburg via Garmish-Partenkirchen.

The Alamanni (Germanic tribe) crossed the Brenner Pass southward into modern-day Italy in 268 AD; however, they were stopped in November 268 at the Battle of Lake Benacus. The Romans kept control over this mountain pass until their breakup in the 5th century.[3]

Holy Roman Empire

During the High Middle Ages, Brenner Pass was a part of the important Via Imperii, an imperial road linking the Kingdom of Germany north of the Alps with the Italian March of Verona. Since the 12th century, the Brenner Pass was controlled by the Counts of Tyrol within the Holy Roman Empire. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa made frequent uses of the Brenner Pass in order to cross the Alps during his imperial expeditions of Italy.[4] The 12th-century Brenner Pass, however, was not more than a trackway for mule trains and carts.

Austrian Empire

Modernisation of Brenner Pass took place under the Austrian Empire. In 1777, a carriage road was laid out at the behest of Empress Maria Theresa. The Brenner Railway, which was completed in stages from 1853 to 1867, became the first trans-Alpine rail route being built without a major tunnel when it runs at high altitude (1,371 m). The completion of this railway enabled the Austrians to move their troops more efficiently; the Austrians had hoped to secure their territories of Venetia and Lombardy (south of the Alps). These areas were lost to Italy following the Austro-Sardinian and Austro-Prussian Wars. Brenner Pass still remained within the Austrian Empire (Austria-Hungary from 1867) until 1919.

Post-World War I

After the end of the First World War in 1918, control of the pass was shared between Italy and Austria under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919). Italy was awarded the territories of Trentino-Alto Adige (Welschtirol and Südtirol) for their switch of sides to help the Entente powers. Italian troops arrived at Brenner Pass in 1919.

During World War II, Adolf Hitler, leader (Führer) of Nazi Germany, and Benito Mussolini, leader (Duce) of Fascist Italy, met at Brenner Pass to celebrate their Pact of Steel on 18 March 1940. The pass belonged to a part of the ratlines for some Nazis after the German surrender in 1945.

Brenner Pass
Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: ZAMG


The motorway E45 (European designation; in Italy A22, in Austria A13) leading from Innsbruck via Bolzano to Verona and Modena crosses this pass. This Brenner Autobahn/Autostrada del Brennero is one of the most important north-south connections in Europe. After signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1992 and Austria's subsequent entry into the European Union in 1995, customs and immigration posts at Brenner Pass have been removed.

The Europabrücke (Europe Bridge), located roughly halfway between Innsbruck and Brenner Pass, is a large concrete bridge carrying the six-lane Brenner Autobahn over the valley of Sill River (Wipptal). At a height of 180 metres and span of 820 metres, the bridge was celebrated as a masterpiece of engineering upon its completion in 1963. It is a site where bungee-jumping from the bridge has become a popular tourist attraction.

The ever increasing freight and leisure traffic, however, has been causing long traffic jams at busy times even without border enforcements. Brenner Pass is the only major mountain pass within the area; other nearby alternatives are footpaths across higher mountains at an altitude of above 2,000 metres. As a result, air and noise pollution have generated heavy debate in regional and European politics. As of 2004, about 1.8 million trucks crossed the Europa Bridge per year.[5]


In order to ease the road traffic, there are plans to upgrade the Brenner Railway from Verona to Innsbruck with a series of tunnels, including the Brenner Base Tunnel underneath Brenner.[6] While the official groundbreaking of the tunnel had taken place in 2006 (with survey tunnels drilled in the same year), substantial work did not begin until 2011. Funding issues have delayed the tunnel's scheduled date of completion from 2022 to 31 December 2025.[7]

In popular culture

The Brenner Pass appears in the video game Tom Clancy's EndWar as a potential battlefield.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Egon Kühebacher (1991), Die Ortsnamen Südtirols und ihre Geschichte, Bozen: Athesia, p. 59
  2. ^ Walter Woodburn Hyde, Roman Alpine Routes (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press) 1935:194, "the use of the major pass-routes has been continuous from prehistoric times down to the present".
  3. ^ "Geschichte Schwabens bis zum Ausgang des 18. Jahrhunderts" by Max Spindler, Christoph Bauer, Andreas Kraus, 3rd edition; publisher: C.H.Beck Verlag 2001 page 80 ISBN 3-406-39452-3, ISBN 978-3-406-39452-2
  4. ^  
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Galleria di Base del Brennero – Brenner Basistunnel BBT SE – Offline
  7. ^ "BBT wird Realität - Ministerrat gibt grünes Licht -". 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  8. ^  

External links


  • Webcam Brenner Pass
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