ABSTRACT During the structural and sedimentological evolution of rifted continental margins in carbonate dominated settings, a characteristic stage is commonly reached when pelagic carbonate sedimentation occurs in association with complex fault block systems. An integrated study of the ammonite biostratigraphy and sedimentology of Jurassic pelagic rocks in the Umbria-Marche Apennines (central Italy) and in the Sila Mountains (north-east Calabria, southern Italy) has revealed three distinctive facies associations which can be related to specific structural and depositional settings. The condensed pelagic facies association is the constituent of condensed, usually discontinuous sequences, with numerous hiatal surfaces. The normal and resedimented pelagic facies association is typical of thicker sequences, comprising gravity flow and rockfall deposits. The composite pelagic facies association is one in which rockfall deposits are found associated with condensed sequences containing minor or no gravity flow deposits. Palaeotopographical highs are dominated by the condensed pelagic facies association and constitute the pelagic carbonate platform (PCP). Structurally, the PCP can be coincident with the top of a horst (or ‘central high’) block or the crestal area of a tilted block. In the latter case, the sediment surface of the PCP slopes gently (maximum of 1–3°) in this, the shallowest area of a pelagic carbonate ramp. PCPs can have erosional, bypass (rare) and depositional margins. Stepped margins also exist as subparallel rows of erosional and bypass margins. Trends from erosional to depositional margins are usually seen as a response to basin filling and burial of submarine tectonic escarpments by pelagic deposits in late synrift or early post-rift times. This is apparent from ‘progradation’ of PCP facies deposits beyond the structural boundaries of the PCP. Palaeoenvironmental analysis in pelagic carbonate platform deposits of the Umbria-Marche Apennines suggests that drowning of ancestral peritidal carbonate platforms in Pliensbachian time was followed first by a moderate deepening and then by shallowing in the Tithonian.