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Lugano and region > All roads lead to Ticino > Gran San Bernardo - Piemonte - Lago Maggiore

Gran San Bernardo - Piemonte - Lago Maggiore

The Great St Bernard Pass (Fr. Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, It. Colle del Gran San Bernardo) is the most ancient pass through the Western Alps, with evidence of use as far back as the Bronze Age, surviving traces of the Roman road and more recently the path of Napoleon's army into Italy in 1800. It is located at 45°52.2'N 7°10.3167'E. A hospice for travellers founded in 1049, named after Saint Bernard of Menthon, which later became famous for its St. Bernard dogs. The hospice still functions, occupying two buildings, of 1560 and 1898 (illustration, right). Pope Pius XI confirmed Bernard as patron saint of the Alps in 1923. The pass runs northeast-southwest through the Valais Alps at an elevation of 2,469 m (8,101 ft). From the north (Switzerland), the route to the pass follows the Dranse River valley above Martigny, then into the wild and desolate valley of the Dranse d'Entremont. The Great St Bernard Tunnel (and the main road) plunges through the mountains at the 1,915 m level; after the construction of the Simplon Tunnel further east in 1905, railroad traffic partly superseded the St Bernard road. The much smaller historic road winding over the pass itself, which is part of the Swiss border with Italy is only passable June to September. On the south side of the pass, the Great St Bernard Valley is drained by the Artanavaz River, which runs down to Aosta.