In August and October 2016, two normal fault earthquakes (Mw 6.0 and Mw 6.5, respectively) struck the Amatrice-Norcia area in the central Apennines, Italy. The mainshocks nucleated at depths of ~ 7–9 km with the co-seismic slip propagating upward along the Mt. Gorzano Fault (MGF) and Mt. Vettore Fault System (MVFS). To recognize possible weakening mechanisms along the carbonate-hosted seismogenic faults that generated the Amatrice-Norcia earthquakes, the fresh co-seismic fault exposure (i.e., “nastrino”) exposed along the Mt. Vettoretto Fault was sampled and analyzed. This exposed fault belongs to the MVFS and was exhumed from ~ 2–3 km depth. Over the fresh fault surface, phyllosilicates concentrated and localized along mm- to μm-thick layers, and truncated clasts and fluid-like structures were found. At the nano-scale, instead of their common platy-lamellar crystallographic texture, the analyzed phyllosilicates consist of welded nm-thick nanospherules and nanotubes similar to phyllosilicates deformed in rotary shear apparatus at seismic velocities or altered under high hydrothermal temperatures (> 250 °C). Moreover, the attitude of the Mt. Vettoretto Fault and its kinematics inferred from exposed slickenlines are consistent with the co-seismic fault and slip vectors obtained from the focal mechanisms computed for the 2016 mainshocks. All these pieces of evidence suggest that the Mt. Vettoretto Fault slipped seismically during past earthquakes and that co-seismic slip was assisted and facilitated at depths of < 3 km by phyllosilicate-rich layers and overpressured fluids. The same weakening processes may also have been decisive in facilitating the co-seismic slip propagation during the 2016 Mw 6.0 Amatrice and Mw 6.5 Norcia earthquakes. The microstructures found along the Mt. Vettoretto Fault, which is certainly a seismogenic fault, provide a realistic synoptic picture of co-seismic processes and weakening mechanisms that may occur in carbonate-hosted seismogenic faults.