* Seven people killed in Sunday's earthquake
* Area hit by more than 100 aftershocks, some strong
* PM Monti cuts short trip to NATO summit in Chicago
* Some 4,000 homeless, 200 million euros in farm damage
(Adds fresh quotes, agricultural damage)
By Stephen Jewkes
FINALE EMILIA, Italy, May 21 Thousands of people
in northern Italy slept in tents and cars overnight as more than
100 aftershocks rocked the area hit by a magnitude 6.0
earthquake that killed seven people and inflicted heavy damage
to centuries-old cultural sites.
"The fear that your house will collapse on your head is
great, so it was good to be able to sleep in this tent," said
one man who spent the night outdoors, cold but safe, in the town
of San Felice sul Panaro.
Heavy rainfall added to the misery of people who had to
abandon their homes and made conditions more difficult for civil
But most residents said they were content with the relief
effort. "They set up these tents very quickly. I felt safe," an
elderly woman said.
Sunday's earthquake killed four factory workers who were on
the night shift, an elderly woman who was hit by a beam and two
women who died of shock.
It also caused an estimated 200 million euros' damage to
agriculture and left a swathe of destruction across the
Emilia-Romagna region, felling ancient churches and severely
damaging a castle that had withstood wars and invasions for
A 14th century clock tower in Finale Emilia was split
vertically as if hit by a meat cleaver when the quake struck at
4:04 a.m. (0204 GMT), leaving only one half - showing the Roman
numerals from seven to eleven - standing. Twelve hours later, an
aftershock of magnitude 5.1 brought down the rest.
"I had to come here. They haven't said when we can go back
because the aftershocks are continuing," said Michelina
Salvatico, a resident of Finale Emilia who was moved to a sports
centre after her house was damaged.
The quake hit a generally flat area in the Po River valley
that was believed to have been safe from major seismic activity.
The quake, and a bombing that killed a teenage girl in
southern Italy on Saturday, prompted Prime Minister Mario Monti
to cut short a trip to the United States.
"This is one of the times that the country should feel
united and close to those who are suffering, and I believe it
is," Monti said in Chicago, announcing his decision to return
early from a NATO summit.
The tremors caused the greatest loss to Italy's artistic
heritage since an earthquake in 1997 ravaged the Basilica of St.
Francis in Assisi, where the ceiling collapsed.
The imposing 14th century Estense Castle, symbol of the town
of San Felice sul Panaro, was severely damaged.
The tops of several of its smaller towers collapsed and
there were fears that the main tower, weakened by cracks, could
tumble. Centuries-old frescoes and other works of art were badly
damaged in three of the town's churches.
PROSCIUTTO AND PARMESAN
"We have practically lost all our artistic patrimony," said
Alberto Silvestri, mayor of San Felice. "Churches and towers
collapsed. The theatre is still standing but has cracks."
The quake left a gaping hole in the side of the Renaissance
town hall in Sant'Agostino, which officials said was in danger
Smaller aftershocks, reaching magnitude 2.5, continued to
rattle the area on Monday.
The damage to agriculture and livestock, in what is one of
Italy's most fertile food producing regions, was estimated to be
at least 200 million euros, the farmers group Coldiretti said.
Stables, barns and animal pens were damaged and some
400,000 large wheels of the area's world-famous Parmigiano
Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses fell from shelves in
warehouses where they were undergoing seasoning.
The quake could also affect milk and ham production in the
area - famed for Parma ham - because of deaths and injuries
suffered by cows and pigs, Coldiretti said.
(Writing By Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)