Cultural sites have been left in ruins and almost 5,000 people have fled their homes after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck in Northern Italy, killing seven people.
The Italian government expects to declare a state of emergency.
Travellers planning on visiting Italy in the next coming weeks are advised to check with local authorities before travelling to the area, although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not placed any official restrictions to travel in the country.
The quake struck at 0405 local time north of Bologna and between the towns of Finale Emilia, San Felice sul Panaro and Sermide. The three provinces of Modena, Ferrara and Bologna were affected.
The earthquake destroyed Finale Emilia’s picturesque clock tower and collapsed the roof of a 16th-Century chapel in San Carlo, wiping out eight years of restoration work.
It also left the 14th-Century La Rocca castle at San Felice sul Panaro – the town’s biggest tourist attraction – in ruins, and destroyed San Felice’s three main churches.
Damage which occurred to 300,000 Parmesan and Grana Padano cheeses is estimated to be at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros.
Culture Minister Lorenzo Ornaghi said that although it is too early to give a full assessment of the damage, the cultural cost to the region appears to be “considerable”.
Small aftershocks have continued to affect the area and the Prime Minister, Mario Monti, cut short his visit to the Nato summit in Chicago in order to visit the region.