The Brenner Pass is a major transport route across the Alps linking Italy with Austria. The central section of the Brenner Pass covers a four-lane motorway and railway tracks connecting Bozen/Bolzano in the south and Innsbruck to the north. The village of Brenner consists of an outlet shopping centre (supermarkets and stores), fruit stores, restaurants, cafés, hotels and a gas station. We visited this point as part of the IBRG AT20 trip. Upon arrival we stopped for an evening meal, our third meal of the day in country #3.
During our visit on both sides of the border although signs were in both German and Italian, we heard no Italian spoken. The map on the right indicates the dominance of German. Residents identify themselves as German speaking South Tyroleans first, and Italians second. Culturally, they are closer to Austrians than Italians further south.
At the end of World War I in 1918, the control of the Brenner Pass was shared between Italy and Austria under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919). The Treaty of London (1915) secretly awarded Italy the territories south of the Brenner Pass for supporting the Entente Powers. Welschtirol/Trentino, along with South Tyrol was transferred to Italy. After the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1992 and Austria’s subsequent entry into the European Union in 1995, customs and immigration posts at the Brenner Pass were removed in 1997. However, Austria reinstituted border checks in 2015 as a response to the European migrant crisis. At the time of our visit checks were occurring in part due to COVID 19 health checks.
The motorway E45 one of the most important north/south connections runs through the Brenner Pass and is frequently subject to traffic jams and pollution. Subsequently rail links between Verona to Innsbruck are in the process of being upgraded with a series of tunnels, including the Brenner Base Tunnel underneath Brenner being constructed. From a border perspective the situation at the pass is fascinating with the border being marked by a variety of markers, some quite grand and others as plaques in the road. The local infrastructure has been developed in spite of the border, meaning it now transects roads and roundabouts in a seemingly unplanned way.
Our focus was on those accessible border markers between e -49 and e -62.
Border markers e-49 to e-52
Following the border was relatively straightforward but occasionally it was necessary to check which country we were standing in.
The Railway Tracks
The border after BM e-52 enters the railway track area. It was by definition inaccessible for safety reasons. The border cuts across the lines and raises the question which company is responsible for the track upkeep.
Standing on the side of the tracks it was not easy to translate the map indicating the marks locations with what we could see on the ground. We spoke to the Austrian border officials and they unsurprisingly had not idea. In the photo below it it possible to see small yellow painted posts which may mark the borders. It is not possible to be sure.
Border markers e-61 and e-62
On the eastern side of the Brenner Autobahn there are further border points of interest, including vehicle checkpoints, border fences and various border markers. BM e-62, up a steep slope within a wood is a red marker, the first I have seen.
Date(s) of Visit: 5 and 6 September 2020