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There’s something about train travel that is just oh-so-appealing to me. Maybe it’s the old-world romance, or simply the fact that trains don’t have turbulence! I actually didn’t have much of a choice when booking the overnight train from Rome to Vienna. I was traveling with my dog, Andre, who is just over the weight limit to fly in-cabin on most European airlines. That being said, I was still super excited to take my first overnight train ride. This was our experience!
a little info…
The overnight train from Rome to Vienna that you will take is the Nightjet. The Nightjet is run by OBB, Austria’s leading railway company. While their website is fairly easy to navigate, I knew I had some obstacles due to the fact that I was traveling with Andre. I knew I had to book my own sleeper compartment if traveling with a dog, but there were a number of options on the website. I wasn’t sure what to choose. So, in lieu of purchasing online, I headed to Roma Termini, the main train station in Rome, and bought my ticket in-person.
The woman at the counter was a great help. I explained that I had a dog traveling with me, and that I required a single sleeper compartment. She booked me the room, and explained to me that I would pay for Andre on-board the train (30 euro). I’m not exactly sure what happened, but no one ever charged me for the dog. Sweet! I wound up paying less than the cost quoted on the website, as well – on the website, the cost was 200 euro – I paid 179. Not bad when you consider you get accommodation for a night in addition to transportation between two major cities.
One thing that really irks my Type-A personality is that you don’t know which platform (binario in Italian) you will be leaving from until the last second – to me, that’s about 20 minutes before the train actually departs. Andre and I hung around Termini for a few hours, since I was traveling alone and didn’t want to be rushing with all of my bags and dog in tow.
The train departs from Roma Termini at 18:55 with a scheduled arrival time of 08:53 the next day to Vienna HBF. Spending some time in the Austrian capital? Here are some of my favorite things to do in Vienna. If you happen to be in the Imperial City for an extended period of time, there are a myriad of amazing day trips and weekend getaways from Vienna as well!
If you’ve booked a private sleeper compartment, your ticket will indicate which car and which bed is yours. It is indicated by letto (bed) on the ticket. Finding it was quite easy. The room is initially set up as a couch – three seats with arm rests that lift to expand seating room. There is also a small table that detaches from the wall. The compartments are super tiny – I’d highly recommend doing some stretching before and/or after your journey. Here’s one of my favorite travel yoga sequences that I regularly practice before long trips.
You are provided with slippers, a towel, ear plugs, some crackers, a mini-muffin, and bottled water. The attendant gave me a couple of extra bottles of water for Andre, as well as some prosecco – woohoo! There are bathrooms in each train car, as well as showering facilities. Some sleeper compartments are designated ‘deluxe’ and have their own toilet and shower. I didn’t splurge on this feature, but definitely would in the future!
personal experience on the overnight train from rome to vienna
The table that detaches from the wall malfunctioned in my compartment – I set a glass of wine on it and it immediately came crashing down, Nero d’Avola spilling like blood down the walls of the train and seeping into the carpet. Ew.
Initially, the train staff was going to keep me in the same room. I frowned, explaining that I didn’t want to be in a tiny, stuffy room that reeked of red wine all night. The attendant offered me the use of his cologne to get the smell out – very sweet of you, adorable Austrian man, but no thanks. They eventually moved me to the adjacent room. Someone went in and dumped a bunch of cologne, however, and it was all I could smell for a few hours.
The staff will come in at 21:30 to change your couch set-up into a bed. There are three beds per room, each hovering above the one below it. Since I was in a single, the two upper beds were not set-up. I’d planned on eventually taking an overnight train with my mom from Romania to Hungary, but after seeing the set-up here, I made the executive decision for us to take a day train instead. Neither of us are keen on bunk beds and didn’t want to spend the extra money to each get a single room.
The train was relatively quiet, especially in comparison to the intercity Italian trains I’d been riding the past month. I didn’t need the earplugs, and I am an infamously light sleeper. Nice!
In addition to the snacks and other little ‘extras’ that were provided, there was also a card to fill out for a breakfast order. A plethora of juices, coffees, teas, etc., as well as an impressive selection of food items. You are allowed to choose up to 6 per person, with each additional costing an extra 1,20 euro. Not bad at all! The attendant asks you when you would like breakfast and he brings it to your room. He was flabbergasted when I told him 06:00. “You know you don’t have to get up that early, right?”
There are places above the ground floor to store luggage, complete with safety belts to keep everything in place. Given how much my bag weighed, I didn’t attempt to lift it (though I’m sure someone would have helped me had I asked). Keeping my bags on the floor took up a lot of space, though, and in retrospect, I would’ve been much more comfortable without having them in the way.
There are two outlets in the sleeper compartment – a main outlet, and one in the sink area. Another reason I would opt to always get my own room. Three people in this day and age fighting over two outlets? I’d expect there to be bloodshed.
Speaking of sinks – while my compartment did not have a toilet nor a shower, it did have a sink and mirror, which was helpful, especially while in the midst of the Italian Coronavirus outbreak. Having the freedom to regularly wash my hands was nice (as well as not having to go to the more public bathroom to brush my teeth).
There were a couple of hangers as well, in case you are traveling with clothes that can’t be folded or packed otherwise.
Although a drastic improvement from the plane ride over to Europe, Andre was still not a big fan of the train. Poor guy.
While the bed was surprisingly comfortable, I slept like utter shit. We stopped in a couple of different places, and my brain couldn’t help but notice that at some points we were stopped for what felt like an incredibly long time. Turns out, I was absolutely right. We wound up arriving to Vienna 2 hours late! Apparently there was some issue with two different Italian trains – surprise, surprise.
Despite not having slept well, waking up to these views was pretty epic. Austria has gorgeous scenery, and while this particular route doesn’t go through the infamously beautiful Brenner Pass, if you’ve never actually seen it, you’d never know.
While it was definitely an adventure, the overnight train from Rome to Vienna didn’t quite live up to my idealized expectations. This was partly due to my anxiety regarding Andre’s ability to go to the bathroom, especially given that the train was 2 hours late. We missed our train to Budapest (but OBB put us on the next one, no problem). That being said, I’d do it again.
If traveling alone, I’d opt for the deluxe sleeper compartment – with the in-cabin shower and toilet. If traveling with another person, maybe 2 individual sleeper compartments would work best for me. It would depend on the other person’s snoring habits and the level of intimacy we shared – hahah! Other sleeping arrangement options, including a 6-berth couchette car & regular seating, can be found here. If you’re spending a few days in Rome with kids and need an exciting way to transit to your next destination, booking an entire couchette car could be fun – not to mention cut down on your carbon footprint!