The nappe-structured belt of Calabria constitutes the eastward termination of the southern branch of the Alpine Mediterranean belt that delimits the northern edge of the Africa plate. Contrasting hypotheses for the origin and tectonic significance of the north Calabrian nappe edifice have been proposed, and kinematic data from north Calabria have been used to support different interpretations of the Alps-Apennines linkage and the polarity of the Tethyan subduction in the Apennine region. We reconstruct the architecture of the north Calabria nappe edifice through a multidisciplinary approach which integrates structural investigations with metamorphic thermobarometry and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. Results from this study indicate that north Calabria consists of a Tertiary nappe stack, resulting from superimposed top-to-the-west extensional shearing (late Oligocene to middle Miocene in age) onto a previously structured top-to-the-east compressional belt (Eocene to Oligocene in age). This study also documents that the top-to-the-west extensional tectonics was achieved by means of regionally sized extensional detachment fault systems, stretching apart and translating as allochthonous fragments the previously accreted units. Thinning operated by top-to-the-west extensional detachment tectonics also resulted in the direct juxtaposition of non-Alpine or slightly Alpine metamorphosed units (upper plate complex) onto the previously exhumed deep-seated portions of the orogenic wedge, metamorphosed under blueschist facies metamorphic conditions (lower plate complex). These findings support a new tectonic scenario for the orogenic history of north Calabria, which may be adequately framed within the Tertiary Apennine-Tyrrhenian system evolution.