When moving abroad, we often want to keep up with our fitness routine and keep moving, but some things make that a bit tough. I remember when I first moved to Italy, heading to the gym, or starting a sport was very intimidating due to the language barrier. Gyms especially are intimidating enough often, going alone without knowing the language can deter many newcomers. While living in Italy I also found I was curious to know more about fitness culture in Italy. Calcio – soccer – is, of course, the most popular sport, but I found there is a niche for professional basketball and rugby here, plus an increasing interest in activities like Padel and CrossFit. So I decided it was time we jump into exploring the fitness and gym culture in Italy.
How Active Are Italians?
According to ISTAT, 66,2% of Italians over 3 years old practice a sport in their free time. About 40% of men practice sports continuously, while only about 30% of women do. They found it was very influenced by family life, if both parents worked out regularly or did sports, 8/10 children followed their influence. However, in families where only the father practiced any activity, this statistic fell to 3/10.
Of course, the most popular sport is soccer, followed by swimming, cycling, tennis, and skiing.
Gyms in Italy
In Italy, you’ll notice there are many more small local gyms rather than the big chain ones. In fact, 59% of fitness centers in Italy are small independent ones, 12% are chain gyms, 3% are franchising, and 28% are studios dedicated to one practice like Yoga or Pilates.
One thing you might notice right away, that a number of other ex-pats have pointed out, is that gyms in Italy have significantly higher membership costs than ones back home. Prices range from €25-120 per month, but commonly I have found an average to be about €60 per month. Cheaper options are often available in major cities (20 hours and McFit are popular budget chain gyms).
A standard gym will have locker rooms, a small cardio section, a weights section, and then a separate classroom. You should bring your own lock, towel, and a very full water bottle.
Another thing noted by many ex-pats in Italy is that gyms in Italy don’t have water fountains, but rather vending machines for bottled water. Personally, I have no fear and fill my bottle up with the tap but, you will get some looks.
Then – we have to mention the air conditioning. In theory, gyms are air-conditioned. But experience has shown me that if they do turn it on, it will be so low that you’ll be sweating without any activity anyway. More commonly they will just open all doors and windows, turning on the fans but not the AC.
Gym Culture in Italy
While I have my own experience with gym culture in Italy, I took to Instagram to ask others living in Italy what their thoughts were. Overall I felt we had some of the same thoughts.
- Smoking before, after, and during a workout is perfectly normal. You’ll even see trainers take a break to go out front and smoke between sessions. I found that also drinking around a workout is totally normal – grabbing a beer after a training session, hiking to get somewhere to eat or drink, and bringing along drinks to an outdoor sports practice. I’d say that activity here is more about just moving for fun, and for social reasons, rather than dedicated to optimizing your body or health.
- Women seem to be missing from the weight room. Obviously, this is a perception we might have, rather than any solid data, but many followers pointed out that weight rooms seem to be dominated by males. However, I know many women who go specifically to functional training studios or CrossFit gyms, so there might be a preference for these niche studios. If you are a woman heading to the weights – don’t be nervous, you do you, put those headphones in to ignore the others and you’ve got this!
- No water fountains! Bring your own bottle, and make it one of the 2l ones because otherwise, you will have to buy.
Tips for heading to an Italian Gym
If you’ve just moved to Italy and are heading to your first Italian gym, here are just a few things to keep in mind.
- You can usually try once for free! No pressure on your first visit, just head in and ask to “fare una prova” and you can take your time to check out the gym.
- Pack a change of clothes/shoes, a big water bottle, a towel, and a lock. As with most gyms internationally: you’ll want to have a lock for the locker rooms, a change of clothes plus shoes to not get the machines dirty, and a towel for sanitary reasons. However the difference in Italy is a lack of water fountains often, so fill up a big one before going!
- If you are from the US – be sure to check again the difference between pounds and kilograms, it sound’s silly but going back and forth I found myself discouraged at the gym because I thought I was having an off day. Actually, it was just the weight difference!
- When purchasing or considering a membership – often the longer you sign up, the better deal you will get!
- Don’t be nervous for a class, just head to the back, and even if you don’t know the language, it’s easy to follow the movement!
English Fitness Classes in Italy
If you are especially nervous to attend classes in Italian, here are some gyms and studios in Italy that offer courses in English.
Yoga Garage -Florence
Muoviti Fitness – Torino
Studio Zem – Rome
Ballet America – Rome
Have any questions about gyms or fitness centers in Italy? Or do you know another place you’d like to add to the list? Get in touch here!
If you found this information helpful you can show your support by buying me a glass of wine 🥂. I really appreciate it and each glass inspires me to research more into life in Italy!