Whether you have a rail pass or just want to avoid checking your bags and cramming into squished airplane seats, trains between Italy and Germany offer direct transportation between some of Europe's major visitor destinations. Traveling overnight, these trains transport you from city center to city center while you sleep. The cost and comfort level vary considerably depending on when and what class you book, so it pays to shop around.
Euro Night/City Night Line
Because of the distances involved, trains between Italy and Germany run during the night train service. These extra long trains do not run express like the high-speed Italian and German trains typically used for long-distance travel. Making many station stops - even between major cities - one train each evening runs north and one runs south picking up all passengers traveling between the two countries. Rome and Munich form the end points of the sole night route between Italy and Germany, stopping in Orvieto, Chiusi, Florence, Bologna, and Verona along the way.
Passengers traveling on the Euro Night from Italy can connect to other destinations farther north within Germany, such as Baden Baden, Frankfurt or Hamburg, upon reaching Munich in the early morning. To reach or leave from Venice, take any train eastbound from Verona. Trains to and from Milan take a different route through the Alps. To reach Milan or travel to Germany from there, combine a short high-speed day-time train between Milan and Zurich or Basel coupled with the night train to Berlin.
Euro Night and City Night Line trains offer three types of seating and sleeping options for passengers: private compartments, couchette bunks and reclining seats. Within each category, you have options for space and amenities. Deluxe sleepers, with private shower and bathroom, form the first-class option and come with one to three beds. Second-class sleepers, with one to four beds and only a washbasin, are also available. Sleeper cars provide the hotel on wheels experience, with breakfast served in your room each morning and an attendant in each car who handles your needs and gets your tickets checked by the conductor so you are not bothered during your trip.
Couchette cars are the train equivalent of bunk beds at camp; four to six people who don't necessarily know each other in a tight bunk bed arrangement with minimal amenities. On some German City Night Line trains, deluxe couchette cars also include en-suite bathrooms with showers, but otherwise there are no shower facilities in couchette cars. Newer couchette cars from Germany to Italy are generally more well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing than the Euro Night trains from Italy north. If you don't want to pay a premium for a bed, seated cars with reclining seats and no amenities are the most economical way to travel by train between Italy and Germany.
How to Book
Book tickets for train travel between Italy and Germany through either Trenitalia (trenitalia.com), the Italian national rail network, or Deutsche Bahn (bahn.com), the German national rail network. Both offer online booking from overseas, with an option to print your ticket on your home computer. When booking through the online systems, look at the detailed stop and transfer information for your trip because the websites often serve up circuitous evening routes with lengthy stopovers in the middle of the night, as they are showing every available route between the two destinations. Look for the CNL train designation on Deutsche Bahn or the EN abbreviation on Trenitalia.