I stumbled upon "Elisa di Rivombrosa" after exhausting pretty much all of the English-language period dramas. Having seen British adaptations of classic novels countless times (everything from Austen to Hardy to Forster), I found this loose take on Samuel Richardson's "Pamela" and decided to give it a go. Anglophone viewers will appreciate its similarities to the period films that we're familiar with - gorgeous costumes and beautiful music, plots about virtue and vice, etc - but I'd also argue that "Elisa" offers a refreshing amount of fun and intrigue that most recent English-language period films are lacking (often more a result of the sobering sort of stories adapted than of any fault of the filmmakers). "Elisa di Rivombrosa" manages to be both entertaining and mildly intellectual and profound - in an unobtrusive, unpretentious sort of a way. It is playful and serious, and unabashedly exaggerated - without being ridiculous or Barbara Cartland-y. This approach is perfect for the source content (a sentimental novel, after all), and results in a thoroughly captivating and creative work.
An intriguing story with unexpected twists and turns, "Elisa" has a multitude of well-integrated subplots, lively and likable characters, and excellent performances. It has humor and suspense, and moments that pull at your heart strings. Admittedly, the plot isn't always very plausible, but "Elisa" is a soap opera (and doesn't try to disguise the fact), so the somewhat far-fetched events and over-the-top emotions are entirely forgivable and, indeed, beneficial to the atmosphere and pace of the drama. The costumes are attractive and varied, without being distracting, and the music is perfect (beautiful and original, but not a crutch to elicit the viewer's emotional reactions, as the performances are good enough to do that alone).
There's a lot of cheesy romantic dialogue, thwarting of the baddies' schemes, and energetic, rollicking adventure. In short, it's an excellent and entertaining piece of television, a period drama fan's dream come true, and I highly recommend it.