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A site imbued with tales and history

From military stronghold to a cultural and artistic spot

Anyone arriving from the north via the Brenner Pass will eventually travel through this narrow valley passage before Brixen/Bressanone. It’s right there that the Festung Franzensfeste fortress and the green shimmering reservoir dominate the landscape. Built around 1833 and 1838, under Emperor Franz I of Austria, it was one of the most secure fortresses in the Alpine region of its time - during the Habsburg Empire its purpose was to protect the axis between southern Germany and northern Italy.

65.000 square metres of surface make the Festung Franzenfeste fortress the largest historical site in South Tyrol. In addition to an average of 20 million bricks and 250,000 cubic meters of granite, many tons of wood, sand and lime were used. Its adaptation to the terrain, fire fronts, bomb-proof gun emplacements and labyrinth of tunnels and corridors, leave nothing unsaid about this masterwork. The fortress already lost its strategic importance during the contruction phase. There was never any engagement with the enemy; now and then, when an expedition in the south was close, military units were hosted. Ultimately, until 2003, the fortress served mainly as a weapon and ammunition depot for the Italian military.

Since 2005, the fortress has been open for visits. It also housed the Manifesta art biennial, and since then, the old vaults have become art exhibitions’ home. The permanent exhibition of the Festung Franzensfeste fortress tells the fascinating story of this fortified building, including that of the legendary gold treasure of the Italian National Bank, which was stashed here during World War II.

Other historical sites in the area

The Festung Franzensfeste fortress was Europe’s largest construction site at the time. Between 3,500 to 5,000 men from all over had been employed by the Habsburg Empire to work on the project. By comparison with this masterwork, in the city of Brixen/Bressanone lived around 3,000 people in those days. An increasing importance was endowed to Brixen, also for these incredible sights in the surrounding area.

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What else awaits you

Once you have crossed the narrowest part of the valley, the broad Brixen basin opens up before you. You’ll see resorts high up in the mountains. Among apple orchards, vineyards and in the Dolomites: while hiking and skiing, a culturally rich destination waits for you.