I belong to a little health club called Palestra Synergym in town. They've managed to cram a full set of exercise machines, weight room and aerobics space in the tiniest athletic complex I've ever seen. At rush hour, which is between 6-7:30 p.m. on weekdays, we are packed in like sardines. However I love it there anyway. Where else would I be able to finish off a work out with a glass of prosecco and some cookies? Yes, this is possible when someone has a birthday. They bring sweets and sparkling wine for everyone to enjoy! The owners and clients are all friends. It's like an extended family at this palestra.
It may seem to be a contradiction to be eating fatty foods and alcohol in a gym setting, a place that it supposed to be wholly concentrated on your physical well-being. Italians are great when it comes to moderation in this regard. The gym-goers are not as "obsessed" with their workout schedule and regime as many Americans are. They balance the exercise with fun, which might include "devilish" foods or the occasional cigarette.
On the other hand, when I am in the states, I go to Bally's health club and witness a lot of exaggeration with women spending 2 1/2 hours straight doing aerobics, running on machines and pumping weights. A lot of the men are too muscular for my tastes, too. Some of them have trouble walking normally from the bulging muscles developed in their thighs, for example.
Back in Italy, I also come across the following situation at the gym: before and after an aerobics class, the women are exchanging recipes for sweets and favorite dinner plates. They are freely talking about lovely food while sweating away some of those future calories.
It's another case of those little differences lived in this different country.