I used to live very close to the city center of Padua. Houses and building are packed into small spaces because real estate is at a premium. So the gym I joined in that area was a tiny little hole-in-the-wall with great people, good prices, yet a horribly small space. See post. If there were more than 10 people inside, it felt like a crowd and you had to be very patient to get on the machine you wanted.
However last year I moved to, basically, the suburbs. I decided to find a new gym in my new neck of the woods (or rather-fields). The new choice happens to be Sportville, a big restored Italian villa on the riverbank of the River Brenta. There and to my eyes' delight, I can gaze at old restored wood beams in the ceilings, beautiful big windows and Italian-style awnings while sweating on a treadmill.
The owners reinvented this "house" to the contemporary needs of a 21st century gym culture. Sportville looks gracious and classic Italian on yhe outside and has state-of-the-art machinery on the inside. Many creature comforts are also embedded into this villa's sheath, such as a spa and café. The only thing that it doesn't have is a tanning bed, which I am happy about, but have seen in other gyms. Italians already tan enough as it is!
So I've gone from one extreme Italian gym experience to the other: tiny and cramped to lovely villa styling. Now I don't have to fight for a space in the aerobics room anymore. I can run along the nearby Brenta if it's a nice day, instead of having to wait for a treadmill to become free. I am in a villa, after all! Everything is better in a villa, right?
Although there are several Italian gym chains in the Padua area that completely mimick US versions, down to the big ugly structures and carving a space out of a big office building, I have ended up choosing something else, twice.