Ahead of the clash with the Azzurri on Sunday has warned her teammates not to rest on their laurels after a nine-try 47-0 victory over Scotland in the opening round.
She said: "We must step up as Italy were the only side to cross our line in the 6 Nations last season.
"We are definitely taking them seriously.
"We will go to Milan with confidence but we are under no illusions because we definitely won't be in for an easy ride.
"It was great to get a nine try win over Scotland under our belts.
"It was a good performance, but for us there were still a lot of areas to work on, from dropped passes to knock-ons and generally just improving our execution."
England's Women are hunting a seventh consecutive RBS 6 Nations crown and head coach Gary Street has plumped for a mix of youth and experience in his selection.
Prop Laura Keates, flanker Isabelle Noel-Smith, and fly-half Ceri Large share only a handful of caps between them. While there are first RBS 6 Nations starts this season for wiser heads Rochelle Clark, Tamara Taylor, La Toya Mason and Kim Oliver.
With resident captain McLean on the bench Hunter is relishing the prospect of spearheading the Red Roses' charge.
"It's very exciting to take on the captaincy role again," she said.
"It is a fantastic moment when you have the opportunity to lead out your country.
"Whoever is selected for each game, you know they are going to stand up and be counted and also challenge to keep that England jersey."
15. Emily Scarratt
14. Georgina Roberts
13. Rachael Burford
12. Kimberley Oliver
11. Kay Wilson
10. Ceri Large
9. La Toya Mason
1. Rochelle Clark
2. Amy Turner
3. Laura Keates
4. Rowena Burnfield
5. Tamara Taylor
6. Isabelle Noel-Smith
7. Marlie Packer
8. Sarah Hunter
16. Victoria Fleetwood
17. Claire Purdy
18. Emily Braund
19. Hannah Gallagher
20. Georgina Rozario
21. Katy McLean
22. Katherine Merchant