Sicilian Rail Adventure: Rome to Vienna - A Night Train Experience

Sicilian Rail Adventure: Rome to Vienna - A Night Train Experience

Rome to Vienna by Train: A Night Train with a Twist

The night train to Vienna departed from Rome at 4 pm due to track work. Since these trains don't have dining cars, we bought enough water and food at the station to last the entire journey. The train was scheduled to arrive in Vienna before 9 am, and breakfast in couchette cars is quite basic.

The changed departure time from 7 or 8 pm to 4 pm wasn't the only complication on this part of the trip. The first issue arose when buying the ticket. If there's planned track work on this route that significantly affects the timetable and there's a risk of the departure time changing, the only option (as of March 2024) is to purchase tickets through the website On this website, you're required to provide a phone number where you'll receive information before departure about any changes to the schedule. Other sales channels, such as the ÖBB or ČD online shops or ticket offices, won't issue these tickets. I wanted two couchettes in a 4-person compartment, both on the lower level. While the online shop allows you to select your preference for lower berths, they aren't guaranteed, and you won't know your assigned seats before payment. This left me with only one option: to go to a ticket office in Austria in person. Since I had a planned trip to Brno, I made a detour to Vienna. There, I got what I wanted: two couchettes (for an adult and a child) for €80. I think this would deter most people from the journey, and they'd opt for flights instead...

Ticket purchased at the ÖBB counter from Rome to Vienna for an adult and a child

A few minutes before 4 pm, our train's platform was still not assigned, which meant a delay. I've had the same experience on my last three trips from Rome. I've never managed to depart with less than a 45-minute delay.

Departure board at Roma Termini

Finally, the board displayed a 20-minute delay, and the train arrived at the platform at 4 pm (the original departure time). So, we left 20 minutes behind schedule. We traveled through Pesaro, Rimini to Bologna Centrale, and then on the usual route through Villach to Vienna.

Train route map from Rome to Vienna via Rimini. | Source: Scotty ÖBB

When the train arrived at the platform, it was visibly quite dirty from the outside. Upon entering, the floor was sticky, and compared to the night train from Sicily, it felt grimy. The Vienna-Rome route uses old couchette cars that haven't been renovated. As is typical with couchettes, the blanket and pillow aren't covered; the linens are in hygienic packaging, and each passenger makes their own bed.

We were alone in the compartment until Bologna, where two more passengers joined us a few minutes before midnight. This is a downside of not buying the entire compartment. However, with ÖBB's pricing, buying the whole compartment would have been absurd, especially in a couchette car. The sleeping car offers better comfort.

There was still daylight until 7 pm, so we looked out at the landscape as we crossed to the other side of the coast. We ordered sausages (one is already bitten into in the photo; my daughter was quicker! :-).

We arrived in Rimini sometime during the night, but we were both asleep by then. We were woken up by someone trying to enter our compartment at midnight, as two more overnight passengers were joining us. Unfortunately, one of them was getting off at Bruck, so we were woken up again before 6 am when they left. The other passenger disembarked with us in Vienna.

Breakfast in the ÖBB Couchette Compartment from Rome to Vienna

At 7 am, breakfast was brought to us, so we folded up the beds and prepared the lower bunks so the passenger from the upper bunk could join us.

The (sweet) breakfast included a Kaiser roll, jam, butter, a hot drink, and juice. Couchette cars don't have showers, but the adjacent sleeping car does. The onboard staff is stationed in the sleeping car and comes to the couchette car. I asked if it would be okay to use the shower next door, and the steward had no problem with it. So, after a quick shower, we disembarked in Vienna on time.

We had about 5 minutes for our transfer. Since I usually miss transfers, I had already decided we would have breakfast in Vienna. For Nightjet passengers with sleeping car tickets, there's an ÖBB Lounge available upon arrival and before departure. I hadn't tried it with a couchette ticket, so we went to find out. The gentleman at the lounge reception told us that our ticket wasn't valid there but that we could purchase lounge access for €10. We took advantage of this – these lounges offer coffee, non-alcoholic drinks, fruit, and restrooms. We waited there for our next connection to Prague.

This was the last leg of our journey from Sicily. And it was actually the most tiring and least comfortable part of the trip. The train trips around Sicily were great, the transfer from Catania to Palermo, which took the whole morning, was fine, and the overnight train journey from Palermo to Rome with the ferry crossing was a great experience. We'll probably skip the Rome to Vienna route next time. We'll either fly or take the high-speed train to northern Italy and then either through Switzerland or by Railjet to Austria. If we're short on time, the plane will likely win. The price-to-quality ratio on the Rome to Vienna route offered by ÖBB favors flying...