The Simplon Pass is a mountain pass between Switzerland and Italy. It connects the Swiss Brig with the Italian Domodossola over a route of 63.6 kilometers. The length from Brig to the highest point of the pass is approximately 18 kilometers.
The pass height is 2,005 meters. From the pass you have a beautiful view of a number of four-thousanders. During the Second World War, a large eagle was built to keep an eye on Italy from there. The road is actually always open in winter, because a lot of tunnels and galleries have been used.
As soon as you drive from Switzerland to Italy, you pass the town of Gondo, which was almost completely destroyed by a landslide in 2000.
- Simplon Pass
- History of Simplon Pass
- 17th century: Von Stockalper family
- 18th century: Napoleon
- 20th century
- Bridges, viaducts, galleries and tunnels
- Alte Spittel
- Simplon Dorf
- Simplon Hospiz
- Stone eagle
- Target practice
- Simplon tunnel
- ViaStockalper: beautiful multi-day hike
- First stage: Brig – Simplon Pass
- Second stage: Simplon Pass – Simplon Dorf
- Third stage: Simplon Dorf – Gondo
The Simplon Pass is a mountain pass on the border of Switzerland and Italy. The pass connects the Swiss canton of Valais (Rhône Valley) with the Italian Lombardy (Val dOssola).
The start of the pass is in Brig, the road goes via the village of Simplon and the border village of Gondo (all on the Swiss side) to Iselle, Varzo and Domodossola (in Italy). The road goes over the Saltina Gorge and through the narrow Gondo Gorge. The pass is called passo del Sempione in Italian , col du Simplon in French and Simplonpass in German .
History of Simplon Pass
The pass has been around for a very long time, certainly before Roman times. At that time the road was still a mule path and was used as a smuggling route. At a certain point the pass was no longer important and the road became impoverished. The pass has been in different hands several times.
17th century: Von Stockalper family
The Stockalper family became owners of the mountain pass around 1700. Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper was a merchant and used the pass to transport salt from the Mediterranean.
The family ensured that the existing path became accessible again, because the pass was very important for trade. Unfortunately, those times were very turbulent due to the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). By renovating the access route, they ensured a safe connection between Switzerland and Italy.
People who wanted to use the pass to get from Switzerland to Italy or vice versa had to pay a toll. In this way the family became very wealthy.
18th century: Napoleon
In 1801, Napoleon – he was ruler of large parts of Europe at the time – ordered the building of a real road. After five years the road was ready. The mule trail was no longer used from then on. The road that was built on his behalf consisted of 8 large bridges and 7 galleries and was used for the transport of military resources from France to Italy.
Since 1960, the Simplonpassstraße has been added to the national road network. The road is indicated by number 9 (national road) and A9 (motorway). The intention is that the entire route will one day become completely part of the A9. A large part of the road consists of the road that Napoleon built in 1800.
Bridges, viaducts, galleries and tunnels
The road to and over the Simplon Pass is a road with several bends. The road leads through a beautiful area and at every bend the view is different. The road is also accessible in winter, despite avalanches. Galleries and tunnels are used extensively. In total there are 50 bridges (including the Ganterbrücke), 20 galleries and 10 tunnels (including the Kulm tunnel, built in 1970).
About halfway along the route you will drive over the Ganterbrücke. The bridge is located 1,450 meters above the Gantertal. This bridge is 678 meters long and has an S-bend. The bridge was opened to traffic in 1980. The construction work took four years because they could not continue working during the winter.
This building has several names. It is also called Alter Spittel or Alte Hospiz. It is built of granite and consists of five floors. In 1650, Kaspar Jodok von Stockalper ordered the construction of the Alte Spittel on the Simplon Pass.
It was intended as a shelter for travelers and traders who came over the Simplon Pass. This building has served as various types of housing: In 1980 it was bought by the Swiss Ministry of Defense.
The Barralhaus was built by Pierre-Marie Barral in 1902. It is not far from Alte Spittel. The Barralhaus first served as a holiday home for Pierre-Marie Barral’s students. Since 2007 it has been in the hands of the Swiss army and is used as a training location for the military.
The village of Simplon Dorf (perhaps even more of a hamlet) is located 1,467 meters above sea level and had only 309 inhabitants in 2017. In 1950, Simplon Dorf reached its maximum number of inhabitants. In that year there were 451 inhabitants. The number of inhabitants is increasingly decreasing. The first church was built on August 1, 1267, where Willermus von Simplon became the first pastor on October 20, 1290. The church – Pfarrei St. Gotthard – as it stands in Simplon Dorf in 2019, dates from 1725. In addition to the church, there are also a number of chapels in the area. From Simplon Dorf the road continues towards Italy.
At the top of the pass height is Simplon Hospiz. Napoleon ordered the construction of the hospice in 1801. His intention was to
be able to use the building as a barracks in the event of war.
Construction actually started in 1813 and the building was only completely finished in 1831. The reason why it took so long was because Napoleon was deposed in 1814. From 1814 to 1828 the building consisted of only one floor and was more of a ruin. In the year 1828, the Augustinian cannons of the hospiz on the Great St.
Bernard Pass took over the construction of the hospiz on the Simplon Pass. The three-storey building was modernized in 1995 (an avalanche destroyed part of the building in 1971) and is used as a meeting place for people with religious beliefs. There is a church inside the hospiz.
During the Second World War, Switzerland was not attacked by enemies, but there was a threat. The Simplon Pass, the Gotthard Pass and Splügen Pass (all bordering Italy) were passes from which the Italians could enter Switzerland. The Swiss came up with a system: Swiss Reduit (in French Réduit concept).
With that system, the Swiss Alps could be defended by soldiers. The Border Brigade 11 was stationed on the Simplon Pass. That army troop consisted of 13,000 soldiers.
In the spring of 1940, a high stone eagle – which still stands there in 2019 – was built at the pass height at 2,005 meters. The large imposing stone eagle (granite) can be seen from afar. This eagle is 11 meters high and looks” towards Italy. The Swiss soldiers built the eagle in their spare time. At the top of the eagle’s head was a lookout post