Brenner Pass

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Brenner Pass (German: Brennerpass; Italian: Passo del Brennero) 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 of the Alpine passes, and one of the few in the area. 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 1,000 meters.

The central section, the Brenner Pass itself, covers the track between Sterzing and Matrei, through the village of Brenner.



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]


The Romans regularized the already traditional crossing.[2] The first Roman road connecting Italy with the province of Raetia north of the Alps, Via Claudia Augusta, was finished in 46-47 AD, but it did not cross the Brenner. The road started in Verona and followed the Adige valley to the Reschen Pass from where it descended into the Inn valley and from there over the Fern Pass to Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg). Not until the 2nd century AD was a road over the Brenner Pass opened: coming through the Pustertal, the road crossed the Brenner and descended from there to Veldidena (today Wilten), where it crossed the Inn and then the Zirler Berg towards Partenkirchen and on to Augusta Vindelicorum.

The Alamanni crossed the Brenner Pass southward into Italy in 268 AD, to be stopped in November at the Battle of Lake Benacus.[3]

The pass was a trackway for mule trains and carts until a carriage road was opened in 1777. The railway 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. Until then, both sides of the pass had been within the Habsburg-ruled Austro-Hungarian Empire. During World War II, the German leader Adolf Hitler and the Italian leader Benito Mussolini met there to celebrate their Pact of Steel on 18 March 1940. This pass was the way out of Germany for some Nazis after collapse of the government in 1945.

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