The Simplon Pass between Brig in Switzerland and Domodossola in Italy links the Rhone Valley and the Valle d’Ossola, providing links between France and the cities of northern Italy. The first road across the pass for vehicles was built by Napoleon’s army between 1801 and 1808. Railways had reached Brig and Domodossola by 1878, but the decision to drive a tunnel between the two was not taken until 1895. Under the direction of Alfred Brandt until his death in 1899 and then of Carl Brandau the 19.8 km tunnel, then the longest in the world, was completed in 1906. It subsequently formed part of the route of the Orient Express linking Paris with Istanbul.
On the Swiss side of the pass there is a hospice, a house of Augustinian canons , first mentioned in documents in 1235, and a museum in an old inn in the village of Simplon-Dorf. The whole area from Brig to Gonda is regarded as an ecomuseum, where visitors can explore the landscape along trails that were once muleteers’ tracks.
On the Italian side the geology, archaeology and history of the mountains and the routes through them are illustrated in the museum at Domodossola.