Alex Meret was the undoubted man of the match, with the Italian stopper producing several world class saves to keep Germany at bay.
A debatable penalty decision late on then gave Italy the chance to win it, and Federico Dimarco thundered home to give them the edge in Group A.
Dominant start from Germany
Germany settled much quicker than their Italian counterparts and, aside from one heavy touch from Dominik Reimann, they were largely untroubled by the opposition attack. The hosts were keen to get forward and set the tempo from the off, only to be denied an early opening goal by Meret's superb saves.
That was not before Janni-Luca Serra headed narrowly past the post, with the 'keeper's pressure enough to force him wide. Philipp Ochs' strong run and snap-shot kept Meret honest, as he got down with speed to push the ball round the near post. The second saw Serra's point-blank header pushed over the bar; Meret kept Italy in the game.
Following that double chance, the pace in the game dropped quite considerably. Germany continued to pile on the pressure but found no clear way to goal. Serra had another powerful shot saved, with the Germans' set-pieces proving less than useful in trying to forge a way through. As a whole, the first-half failed to live up to the pre-game billing.
Italy strike from the spot to break German hearts
The second half started with an initial burst of Italian pace but that quickly faded into more German dominance. Max Besuschkow and Phil Neumann both had strong shots saved and fly just over, respectively, as the home side picked up exactly where they left off. It was, however, becoming increasingly frustrating for the players to still be level.
The pressure from Streichsbier's men was unrelenting. Corners and free-kicks were gradually grinding down the Italians, who were beginning to tire. It was from a set-piece that created the next major chance of the game, and it was Serra on the end of the bouncing ball. His header was destined for the top corner, but Meret stretched out to claw it away.
Drama at the death
Cedric Teuchert then replaced Serra and picked up where the centre-forward left off, but he too couldn't find a way past Meret. Two smart stops at his near post kept out the substitute and Neumann in quick succession, though the best chance came from a driving Besuschkow run that he fired wildly past the post.
As a result, Germany were made to pay. After Italy had seemingly wasted an excellent opportunity on the counter, Alejandro Hernandez pointed to the spot for a handball in the area. It looked like a debatable call and replays did the referee no favours, but Dimarco wasn't going to pass up the chance and he confidently stroked home from 12 yards.
Despite their best efforts, the hosts couldn't grab a late leveller and fell to an unlikely opening day defeat. The Italians take the lead in the group ahead of Austria's game with Portugal, with Italy taking on Austria next in Group A. It's now a must win game for the Germans when they face Portugal on Thursday, if they want to make the semi-finals.