The champions exploded out of the blocks by crossing twice through Anthony Watson inside the opening 10 minutes, but the overwhelming win their early onslaught appeared to signpost only materialised in the closing stages.
In the end Italy’s whitewash was breached seven times in the bonus-point visit to the Stadio Olimpico, but England were made to work by a team that had nine starters with 10 caps or fewer.
Eddie Jones had urged his players to set the tone for their campaign by putting the Azzurri to the sword and they responded, but there will be plenty to pick apart, not least the way they were exposed out wide when leaking two tries.
The downside for England, however, was a knee injury to Ben Youngs and they will discover the extent of the problem today. But the Leicester scrum-half is expected be ruled out for at least one match.
Youngs suffered ligament damage nine minutes into the game and had to be driven from the pitch on the medical cart.
The 28-year-old cried out in pain after his knee buckled awkwardly during a tackle, ending his afternoon and leaving him a major doubt for at least Saturday’s clash with Wales at Twickenham.
“Ben will have an examination tomorrow (Monday) so we’ll know more after that,” head coach Eddie Jones said.
“He’s unlikely to be available for the Wales game. It’s too early to make any sort of prediction, but I’m always optimistic.”
“Sam’s a good young lad with a great set of skills. If he was a cricketer he’d be playing Twenty20. He’s a bit different - he’s fast and runs good lines,” Jones said.
“He’s a completely humble boy who just gets on with it. He’s fitted into the team well.
“He’s different to Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes and sometimes it takes sides a bit of time to adjust to that, but our adjustment was good. At the end of the game we played some lovely rugby.
“I was really pleased with the effort. Italy were always going to be difficult to play.
“Our scrum and line-out was absolutely first-class. I don’t think we’ve scrummed as well as that in the time I’ve been in charge of England.
“We were completely dominant and that’s English rugby. When the game broke up at the end we were able to score tries.
“Defensively we made a couple of errors and they were able to capitalise on them but they’re something we can work on and fix. It wasn’t the perfect game but very, very positive.”
It has been 1,072 days since Italy won a Six Nations match and coach Conor O’Shea had mixed feelings over their latest defeat.
“I’m proud and angry. Proud because we saw a team with a lot of potential for the future,” O’Shea said.
“But I’m annoyed because we caused them a lot of problems with the ball but the defeat is another statistic.
“It’s a step forward. We played against a great team. We had opportunities and it was a good game.
“It’s a long, hard road ahead for us and we will have to be more disciplined against Ireland.”
Italy captain Sergio Parisse finished the game with a rib injury and will undergo a scan.
Tries: Benvenuti, Bellini. Cons: Allan. Pens: Allan.
Minozzi, Benvenuti, Boni, Castello, Bellini, Allan, Violi, Lovotti, Ghiraldini, Ferrari, Zanni, Budd, Negri, Giammarioli, Parisse.
Hayward for Castello (73), Canna for Allan (73), Gori for Violi (63), Quaglio for Lovotti (41), Bigi for Ghiraldini (54), Pasquali for Ferrari (54), Biagi for Budd (61).
Tries: Watson 2, Farrell, Simmonds 2, Ford, Nowell. Cons: Farrell 4. Pens: Farrell.
Brown, Watson, Te’o, Farrell, May, Ford, Youngs, Vunipola, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Itoje, Lawes, Robshaw, Simmonds.
Nowell for Brown (61), Joseph for Te’o (59), Care for Youngs (10), Hepburn for Vunipola (73), George for Hartley (54), Williams for Cole (54), Kruis for Lawes (59), Underhill for Robshaw (67).
Mathieu Raynal (France).