The Simplon Pass connects Valais with Italy
The Simplon Pass is a mountain Pass at 2.005 m above sea level in Switzerland, in the canton of Valais, not far from the border with the Province of Verbania in Italy. It connects Brig in the canton of Valais with Domodossola in Piedmont (Italy). The pass itself and the villages on each side of it, such as Gondo, are in Switzerland. The Simplon Tunnel was built beneath the pass in the early 20th century to carry rail traffic between the two countries.The pass is by convention the boundary point between the Pennine Alps in the West and Lepontine Alps in the East. It takes its name from the village of Simplon, located on the southern slope in Switzerland. Today the Simplon Pass can be used safely all through the year.
The historical success of the Simplon Pass is related to its geographical position. Already in use in the Stone Age, the Simplon has since known a succession of roads: a medieval mule track (12th century), Stockalper’s Way (1630), Napoleon's Road (finished in 1805) and the State Road 33 Sempione (early 20th century) .
In the 17th century the pass was mainly used by smugglers and mercenaries, because the narrow Gondo Gorge seemed insurmountable even to the builders of the Roman era. Only the merchant Kaspar Stockalper, in the mid-17th century, began to exploit the Simplon Pass to transport salt from the Mediterranean on horseback. Witness of this era is the monumental Baroque castle Stockalper in Brig.
The Simplon Pass is known for the historic road that connects Domodossola to Brig and the Simplon tunnel, an impressive feat of engineering, opened in 1906 connecting Iselle di Trasquera to Brig. On the Simplon Pass is the Simplon hospice, built by Napoleon, in the early 19th century by the canons of Gran San Bernardo and inaugurated in 1831, which can accommodate up to 130 people. In 2005 a memorial was erected for the 200th anniversary of the construction of the "Napoleon Road".
The pass offers a magnificent view of the Bernese Alps with the Bietschhorn and the glacier-covered flanks of the four-thousand-meter summits of mounts Fletschhorn and Weissmies.
Today the «Via Stockalper» is an interesting 35 km long cultural and historical path on which to relive the 17th century, from Brig to Gondo. On the Simplon were established two museums on the natural and cultural history of the Simplon in the old inn restored in Simplon Dorf and in the old barracks at the entrance to the Gondo gorge.