About Simplon Pass
Available: all year round.
Swiss Travel Pass: FREE
Half Fare Card: 40 Sfr from Brig
Follow in the footsteps of Napoleon and experience an unforgettable journey over the famous Simplon Pass to the small Italian town of Domodossola. There are stunning, sweeping views which open up over the sunny Belalp, Riederalp, Rosswald and Bettmeralp terraces.
History of the Simplon Pass
The Simplon Pass was used as early as the Stone Age, mainly by smugglers and mercenaries, because the narrow Gondo Gorge was considered impassable. In the 17th century, the Brig merchant Kaspar von Stockalper began to use mules for bringing salt across the path on its journey from the Mediterranean - and became immensely rich as his monumental palace in Brig attests.
During the Napoleonic occupation, the emperor saw the opportunity to move troops and heavy cannons across the pass and towards Italy. In 1801, he commissioned the first road over the pass and it was completed in 1805, also benefitting ordinary travellers and merchants travelling between northern and southern Europe. In 1906, the railway tunnel through the Simplon was opened, at a length of 19km.
Your journey over the pass
You will travel over the pass by bus, to allow you to take in the fantastic scenery of this region during the 1 hr 50 minute journey.
From Brig, the road takes you over lengthy curves up the mountain. Halfway up, the striking modern bridge crosses the Ganter Valley. The summit of the pass lies at 2,005m, with the Hospiz of the Bernardine monks. Look out for the impressive 8m high stone eagle, reminding visitors of World War II and the magnificent panorama of the Bernese Alps. On the southern side of the pass, the road towards Italy passes the village of Simplon and continues via galleries and tunnels through the narrow Gondo Gorge that is hemmed in by granite walls. You can see the remote valley of Zwischbergen branching off to the west. You pass into Italy at Gondo and continue along the scenic landscape until the bus terminates in Domodossola.
The 30 minute retun journey is by rail through the Italian countryside. The train enters the tunnel at Iselle di Trasquera and emerges in Brig.
This historic town is a pleasure to explore before your journey back to Brig. It serves as an important link between Italy and Switzerland, as celebrated in the Civic Museum of the Simplon, which illustrates the construction of the Simplon tunnel and features artefacts such as the stagecoach which once took the mail across the pass. The medieval town centre boasts the fine Piazza Mercato surrounded by elegant loggias and balconies and the Teatro Galletti. Nearby are the Renaissance buildings the Briona Tower and the Palazzo Silva.
The major attraction of Domodossola is the Sacro Monte del Calvario, built in 1657 by Capuchin monks, and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. The baroque complex comprises twelve chapels illustrating the Passion of Christ, and lies within the Special Nature Reserve of the Sacro Monte of Domodossola along with the ruins of the medieval Mattarella Castle. The Reserve is within walking distance of the town.
There are plenty of restaurants in Domodossola, where you can enjoy a leisurely Italian lunch before your return journey.
From the centre of Brig, the PostBus departs on the Simplon road route a couple of times a day and takes just under 2 hours. You will need your passport for the crossing into Italy.
The return journey is by rail, through the Simplon tunnel and takes just 30 minutes.