But they were swept aside as tries by Christophe Dominici, Cedric Heymans and Sebastien Chabal put the visitors 22-3 up at half-time.
Chabal, again, and Yannick Jauzion piled on the agony for the hosts with further tries after the break, leaving Laporte a satisfied man.
"It's our best debut in the tournament in my eight years," he said. "I've seen a lot of initiative from players and they are the reason for the great result.
"Chabal, (Pierre) Mignoni, (David) Skrela, everyone played well. But it's very difficult to choose a given player. Bravo to my team, to all my players. Our message is clear, and we sent it out today."
The result would have brought some relief to Laporte, who saw his team struggle in the autumn internationals.
They lost heavily to New Zealand twice, and scraped to a 27-26 win over Argentina.
But they put those displays to bed with an strong performance, based on defensive obduracy and clinical finishing.
Raphael Ibanez, captain of Les Bleus in the absence of regular skipper Fabien Pelous, admitted his side had been anxious to prove themselves.
"We worked really hard this week, because after the November Tests, we had to start again," he added.
"We were playing an Italian side with an improving reputation, so it was perhaps normal that we were a bit nervous.
"It was important to have nerves before a game, because it shows you are focused on the game and what you have to achieve.
"The expectation levels on us were high before the game and that is why I am so happy."
He added: "We scored five tries but most of them came from a good defence and for me that was the main thing to come out of today.
"You need good defence to win games. We had a lot of determination.
"We showed how strong the spirit is in the team."
Les Bleus play Ireland at Croke Park in their next game in the competition, and Ibanez admitted it will be a mighty task for his team-mates.
"It will probably be one of the toughest ever games France will play."