Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

The poor girl in Italy workout

Photo bu Deviantart
Photo by Basalt on Deviantart

For those of us who are expats or immigrants in Italy one bone of contention is the price of a gym membership. In Florence, there are a variety of options for those who live both in and out of the center but one fact is clear. If even slightly semi-clean, not filled with sweaty guys in too-tight shorts and edging towards 1990 –   likely it is out of the price range of the normal person like myself.

Why now have I decided to make working out a priority?

  • it’s healthy {duh}
  • I need exercise to support my food-obsession
  • t-mans pants are tighter than mine {if anyone has ever told you that your hips are perfect for birth – just slap them}.

The irony of this is that in Italy many times the prices of goods and services just “don’t match”. What I mean by that is when you are looking at the average yearly salary and expenses and factor in recreation like eating out, clothes and working out – often it seems there is no ‘extra money’ for such activities. It makes you wonder why prices are so high but yet, at the end of the day people are wearing fashionable clothes, tapping away at Iphone 5’s,  and going to Klab or Virgin Active right? Did everyone but me win the lottery?

Sometimes I think it’s because many people live in what a great blogger I follow from Letter’s in Florence has described to me as the ‘nonni economy‘, it seems to me like either as a  young person {I mean young as in under 40} you get at least a little bit of help living here, have saved a lot of money or work remotely (usually you need to have Italian citizenship or be married to an EU member for this privilege) OR you are one of the few to get a really awesome expat package at GE. Obviously I do not fit in that category. I would like to think I represent the normal working non-dependent person who is perpetually poor but living pretty well in my mind (hence why I am always looking at affordable & fun activities).

I used to be a member of Virgin Active when I was working as an assistant for a woman managing tourist apartments in the center. I made mad-commission (before the economic crash) during this period and could spoil myself with the 85 euros a month it cost to go to this gym located in Firenze Sud. A huge modern structure with an indoor and outdoor pool, loads of machines, a lunch bar, free classes (well I should really examine the word “free” in this context), and a turkish bath, sauna etc. It really is paradise in a gym. I especially loved it since I have never been one to go “jogging on the street” and it was fun positive way to stay healthy both physically and mentally.

I also love to go hiking and that is something I will try to do more, but it isn’t feasibly possible on a daily basis, especially with it raining so much lately. Also when you don’t have a car in Florence, proximity is KEY, hence why I don’t look at gyms in the center. We have a gym closer to my house called Olympus, close to Gavinana and I checked it out this past summer. The guy showing me around was really enthusiastic  and I liked him & the gym immediately. They have all sorts of deals including the pool, without the pool, with spinning, without spinning – the truth is my head was spinning after listening to all of the options and numbers. I didn’t end up signing up because I can’t guarantee I can come before 4pm on a weekday (I work) or after 8pm (I am in a food coma by then). I declined even the open plan where you have access to everything Virgin Active style because it cost around 65 a month – which for me, is still too expensive. Sigh

I have started working out at home. I didn’t think I would be able to keep it up since there are so many distractions but somehow for the moment (cross my fingers on befana) I’ve been a good girl. My regime is as follows, I go to the park in front of my house and jog like a grandma for at least 30 minutes. During these 30 minutes my creepy and loud neighbor seems to always pick that moment to walk his dog. The same guy whose TV I can hear at 6:30am through my bedroom wall, and he isn’t catching up on the news.

Anyway, I come home and thanks to my good friend Gianna, I also do a 10 minute workout via  youtube which makes me disgustingly sweaty and is the best & hardest 10 minutes of your life.

Sometimes I do a little yoga, sometimes I do weights (we have some at the house), but it’s working, I feel better and more motivated than I have in a long long time. I wish it was as easy for guys as for girls, t-man only has to not eat bread one night or even just ‘think’ about it and he resembles a stick figure.

So please, readers let me in on your workout at home secrets! I think the key to getting the best results is variety and I while I am most creative at sarcastic retorts, this is an area where I am lacking.

Now where’s my cheesecake.. kidding {not really} ;).

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27 Responses

  1. I do very similar workouts at home in this cold English weather. As much as I hate to confess, I still love Billy Blank’s Taebo Cardio video from the 90’s – only 30 minutes long with cardio and a bit of toning. It is soo cheesy though!

    1. I remember the famous billy blanks.. He used to have a studio down the street where I used to work in los angeles.

  2. The important thing is sticking to it. I used to be a hard core gym go-er when one day realized how much money I was blowing and gave it up. It was hard, but with the tight home workouts and every other day runs outside I finally saved myself a ton of cash. Keep it up. Im off to check out this video you posted, always looking for something new. 🙂

    1. Thanks jennifer! I see that you are pretty awesomely consistent. Now I have a little more free time than before so I can take that 30 minute run plus other activities. Before it felt like there was always something I had to do!

  3. There is an app – Nike Training app that is great – check it out! All the trainers secrets and you can add your playlist to it and do the exercises at home!

  4. As a super-busy working mum, in addition to saving money, there is also the time issue to factor in. Although I still need more, for now biking to and from work is at least something. It helps that I live half an hour away from work. A sporty relative suggested trying to beat my own time to get even more of a workout.

    1. biking is something I am most definitely looking to do once it gets a little warmer, since one of my jobs is only about 20 minutes away via bike. I am always a little nervous carrying my laptop on the bike considering how crazy Italian drivers can be but it may just be worth the risk!

  5. Is there a way to private message you? I am coming to Florence in late January and would like to meet up. Love your blog! Debra

  6. Good for you! Working out is a pain in the rear (literally), but it’s what helps us be able to enjoy pasta practically every day. My boyfriend and I have started to take walks after lunch (I love these 2 1/2 hour Italian lunch breaks) and that’s helped me. Well, when it isn’t raining anyway. When it rains, I have an old “walk away the pounds” dvd that I do (when said boyfriend is NOT at home!) Like your T-man, mine has lost weight since I arrived here this past October. He needs to buy new jeans because without a belt, they’re a hazard! Men!

    1. the pasta never stops (and I kind of don’t want it ever too). Of course unlike in the states, here pasta isn’t always slathered with meat & cheese so that’s one bonus. Walking is one of my favorite things, I really could walk all day and all night.. just relaxing really. Just have to invest in some really really comfortable shoes

  7. There are days that I really don’t want too and sometimes I don’t. I’ve always been a very active person, thanks to my mother who had me in oodles of sports as a kid. Now as an adult if I miss that workout I feel sluggish and slightly miserable. I don’t workout to lose weight, never have, I work out to feel better and brighter. 🙂

    1. you of all people certainly don’t need to lose weight 😉 but its never just about weight is it? It’s about living a healthy lifestyle and burning off some steam. Hope everything is going well in the caymen islands my friend!

  8. I’ve been wondering the same thing about money! – thanks for the link to the “nonni economy” on Letters from Florence. I use the little nike device on my iPod and run along the Arno; been a little sad to discover that you need a competitive sports certificate to run races here and that even the folks in non-competitive ones are outta my league (used to run 5k, 10k and 1/2 mar. back in NM – slowly!).

    1. I think here you also {sometimes} need a sports certificate though I am not certain. My friend Claire from Rome would know more about that. Today after eating a humongous dinner (day one of 3 in Austria – a little post new years vacay.. ) we actually managed to hit the hotel gym so I feel proud haha. That almost NEVER happens on vacation, at least for me. The only awkward part was that the sauna – turkish bath area was all “nuden” {nude} which we only ‘noticed’ later. fun!

  9. Awesome, this is definitely the kinda thing I am into! I live and work a 15 minute drive ‘out of town’, so when I stopped working in town, the gym became a double expense and was the first go. I’ve also been thinking of way to keep fit while traveling in the coming months too… just did that video, and I quite love it! Thinking that I might convert it to audio and stick it on my iPhone to keep for the timing (love that extra concrete bit of motivation)

    Keep up the good work, and happy new year!

    1. thank you! It’s really great to hear that I am not the only one looking A. Save money by not getting a gym membership but B. Still workout and be healthy. I was really skeptical about working out via a youtube video but honestly, whatever makes me sweat & feels good, is A-OK!

  10. As always, glad to know I’m not alone on this issue! I also use the Nike App on my iPad, and it is pretty awesome, but hard! I also follow a couple of Jilian Michaels workouts on YouTube, the 30day shred ones are pretty good!

  11. Good news! There is a new, clean, affordable gym in the city center called “Florence Fitness”. The people that work their are really nice and they speak english ;). I was really suprised at how reasonable the prices are. I highly reccomend it, definately worth checking out!

      1. I signed up for 6 months and it ended up being just over 50 eur/month but I hear that they also offer student discounts.

  12. Hi! I am going to be studying abroad in Florence in the fall and was wondering are the classes at Virgin Active taught in Italian? I assume so. Do you know of any other studios or gyms throughout florence that offer fitness classes in English that aren’t yoga?

    1. Hello Taylor, I would think so yes, what exactly are you looking for? LOL it does seem that most are taught in Italian (except yoga) but for example, I do go to a small gym called Florence Fitness and tons of students/foreigners go there and take classes, it seems to be well-served by the public so why not give them a visit when you are here?

Georgette Jupe

Welcome to my personal blog by a curious American girl living and working between Zug, Switzerland and Florence, Italy with my husband Nico, our newborn Annabelle and Ginger the beagle. This space is primarily to share about my love for Italy (currently on a 13 year romance) with a fair amount of real talk, practical advice, travel suggestions and adjusting to a new culture (Switzerland). Find me on IG @girlinflorence @girlinzug

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