The Northern Apennines provide an example of long-term deep-water sedimentation in an underfilled pro-foreland basin first linked to an advancing orogenic wedge and then to a retreating subduction zone during slab rollback. New palaeobathymetric and geohistory analyses of turbidite systems that accumulated in the foredeep during the Oligocene-Miocene are used to unravel the basin subsidence history during this geodynamic change, and to investigate how it interplayed with sediment supply and basin tectonics in controlling foredeep filling. The results show an estimated ca. 2 km decrease in palaeowater depth at ca. 17 Ma. Moreover, a change in basin subsidence is documented during Langhian time, with an average decompacted subsidence rate, during individual depocentre life, that increased from <0.3 to 0.4–0.6 mm y−1, together with the appearance of a syndepositional backstripped subsidence bracketed between 0.1 and 0.2 mm y−1. This change prevented the basin from complete filling during late Miocene and is interpreted as the foredeep response to initial rollback of the downgoing Adriatic slab. Thus, the Northern Apennine system provides an example of a pro-foreland basin that experienced both a slow- and high-subsidence regime as a consequence of the advancing then retreating evolution of the collisional system.