The Hungarians were top of the Nations League group after beating England 1-0, while the Azzurri started a new era with a creditable 1-1 draw against Germany. Gianluigi Donnarumma was able to play with a modified glove after dislocating a finger in his left hand, while 18-year-old Willy Gnonto had his first start after a sensational debut with assist. The only Hungarian change by coach Marco Rossi was in goal at the Stadio Manuzzi in Cesena.
Gnonto hit a fresh-air volley and then had a shot charged down for a corner, from which Gianluca Mancini’s header forced a one-handed save.
Donnarumma got down to beat away the Roland Sallai strike from the edge of the box, but the deadlock was broken when Leonardo Spinazzola rolled across for Barella, who smashed a ferocious right-foot finish into the far top corner from the edge of the box.
Alessandro Bastoni almost got on the end of a Giacomo Raspadori assist from six yards, then Lorenzo Pellegrini was clear on goal after a great passing move, but opted to roll across for Gnonto instead of going for goal himself, finding a desperate Nego interception.
Moments later, Pellegrini did find the net, as Matteo Politano sprinted down the right and pulled back from the by-line for his tap-in from eight yards.
Politano went on a rapid counter-attack moments later, his finish smashing against the crossbar with Denes Dibusz beaten and the Bryan Cristante follow-up drilled wide.
Barella completed a spectacular double give-and-go with his teammates to burst into the box, only to have Dibusz smother at his feet.
Donnarumma had to fingertip the Sallai effort over after a Hungarian counter-attack and Calabria curled wide, while Napoli-owned forward Alessio Zerbin got his senior Italy debut after a strong season on loan at Frosinone in Serie B.
Manuel Locatelli went on a mazy run to test the goalkeeper in the final minutes.
Italy 2-1 Hungary
Barella 30 (I), Pellegrini 45 (I), Mancini og 61 (H)
Italy: Donnarumma; Calabria, Mancini, Bastoni, Spinazzola (Dimarco 75); Pellegrini (Locatelli 66), Cristante, Barella (Tonali 84); Politano (Belotti 75), Raspadori (Zerbin 84), Gnonto
Hungary: Dibusz; Nego (Fiola 58), Lang, Orban, At Szalai, Z Nagy (Bolla 81); Schafer (Vancsa 87), Szoboszlai, A Nagy (Styles 57), Sallai; Ad Szalai (Adam 87)
Ref: Schärer (SUI)