This work examines the connection between Quaternary tectonics and erosion/incision processes in the primary Tuscan-Romagna watershed of the Northern Apennines, which essentially coincides with the topographic culmination of the Nero Unit structural ridge. Tectonic and geomorphic information were collected in the area where this ridge is crossed by the upper Tiber River course forming a deep gorge. Structural analysis and field mapping have revealed that the region experienced polyphase tectonics with superposed thrust folding events identifiable both at the map and mesoscopic scales. Hinterland-SSW-verging thrusts and thrust-related folds deformed the whole thrust pile during the latest deformation phase. Backthrusts/backfolds controlled the development of intermountain basins nearby the main watershed during the Early Pleistocene and seemingly deformed, in the Tiber gorge, a low-relief landscape developed in the Early Pleistocene (ca. 1.1 Ma). Successively, the upper Tiber River course area and Apennines axial zone underwent a generalized uplift, which is manifested by the deep incision of palaeo-morphologies. This proposed sequence of events correlates well with the major geodynamic change of the Apennines revealed by an acceleration of uplift rates in the Middle–Late Pleistocene. This latter event may also correlate with increased rates of river incision recorded in Europe as a consequence of uplift and/or climate change. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.