Tremors were felt at about 9.30pm in Turin and others parts of Piedmont as well as in the alpine area of Aosta and the Ligurian coast, sparking panic among residents, La Stampa reported.
Around 100 calls were made to Italian emergency services, the newspaper said, while ‘Earthquake in Turin!” was soon trending widely on Twitter.
“There’s a sofa that’s moving and a chandelier dancing…it’s like being at a disco, my heart’s racing,” one person tweeted.
The epicentre of the earthquake was said to be in the Alps-des-Hautes-Provence at a point around 7km from the French town of Châteauroux, 8km from d’Embrun and 10km from the village Barcelonnette, according to France’s National Earthquake Surveillance Network (Renass).
Tremors were also felt in towns and cities from Marseille to Nice and Aix-en-Provence to Grenoble.
Although there were no reports of an injuries or serious damage, many were left in shock at the unexpected tremor.
“I had a hollow feeling in the stomach, which lasted quite a long time. I felt jerky and tiny when faced with such a phenomenon,” one witness from Nice told Europe1 radio.
Scientist François Thouvenot from an earthquake surveillance network in Grenoble told the French newspaper, Le Parisien, that a quake on this scale in the south east of France occurs once every 30 years.