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History of Bruneck, Italy

See Bruneck guide for highlights and historic monuments

The position of Brunico (Bruneck) is explained by its location: it is ideally situated at the heart of important historical trade roads, and the Puster Valley was already inhabited in prehistoric times.

This can be seen in the numerous ancient remains found in Dobbiaco, Monguelfo and Brunico [1]. As regards Brunico itself, it is situated in an area of the Puster Valley which is also rich in castles.

Roman occupation of Brunico and the Puster valley

After Drusus (38-9 BC) and Tiberius (42 BC-16 AD) conquered the settlements in the Isarco and Adige Valleys in 15 AD, the Romans penetrated deeper into the territory, reaching the Puster Valley. Here the major settlements were at "Sebatum" and "Littamum”, near San Candido.

The Puster Valley was a very important area for the Romans, because it is situated on the great road that led from Aquileia to "Aguntum" (near Lienz). From "Aguntum" the road continued to Fortezza and the Brenner pass, once called “Pireneus”, then from Brenner they progressed towards Valdidena (Wilten, near Innsbruck) and "Augusta Vindelicum" (Augusta).

Brunico in the Middle Ages

The Puster Valley, a key strategic area, is literally dotted with castles (42 in all), and the foundation of Brunico is linked to this special "military" characteristic of the Valley.

Among these, long after the Romans had left, the Bishop of Brixen, in the mid-13th century, built his new residence in Brunico, giving life to the new village and castle. Soon after, to ensure the safety of his domains, Prince-Bishop Bruno of Kirchberg (died 1288),  built the castle and  town of Brunico around 1250. In 1256 the city is mentioned for the first time in a document, which quoted a place “apud Bruneke” (“Near Brunico”) [2].

In 1370 the city obtained many privileges, and the Emperor Charles IV granted to the right of jurisdiction, after which a lively trade and thriving craft industry determined the expansion of the city.

In the early 15th century the first mansions appeared, predominantly inhabited by artisans who opened their shops here. From this time also dates the main road in Brunico, called the "Via Centrale” [“Midway”].

Over the centuries tha town faced many challenges, with large floods in the 14th and 19th centuries, the plague in 1543/44, and some fires and earthquakes also afflicted the city, but Brunico was always rebuilt.

The years between 1814 and 1914 can be considered as a period of economic liveliness, particularly through the development of tourism and mountaineering; the railway was opened in 1871, and Brunico today is a city that is the focus of the economic life of the Puster Valley, which profitably combines tourism and handicrafts.

Origins of the name Brunico

The etymology of the city name is tied to Bishop "Bruno", from whose name the name derives precisely: "Brun-ico", where the suffix "Ico" - "ek" means "hill", or "rock". It has been said that in past times the town was also called “Brunopoli”, or “the city of Bruno”. Around this etymology there is general agreement among scholars, although probably this area, where the Bishop built the castle, had already had some very ancient villages, which were territorially organized after his arrival.

Anyway, the city is remembered with the name of "Bruneck”, albeit with some variations:

"[...] Bruneck-Brunico, in 1253, "Brunegg" in 1256, "Bruneke" in 1295, " stadt Brauneck", a form with the diphthong from 1394 "Prawneke". The name indicates that the construction of the castle is the work of Bishop Bruno (1251-1256) [...] " [3].

See also the Brunico travel guide if planning a visit.


1. See the important study by M. Borda, " A ‘Mansio’ in Noricum: 'Sebatum' in 'Cultura Atesina ", 3 (1949): 4 ff.

2. See Nicholas Grass, "Cusanus Gedachtnisschrift im Auftrag der Rechts, Wagner, 1970, p. 289

3. See Carlo Battisti, “Miscellanea in  onore di Ettore Tolomei”, Olschki, 1953, p. 15