I've pondered the why's and have come up with a few theories, including the fact that this culture doesn’t see the point in unnecessary pain and sweat, and they don’t like to be controlled by machines. It threatens their freedom of expression, and forces them to restrict the movement of their hands. Asking an Italian to keep his hands on the bars of a machine for ½ hour is like asking an American to put a gag in his mouth.
The Palestra is a quiet, empty place that nobody goes to. It’s always empty, with a little old man sitting behind a counter, reading or talking to a neighbor, passing the time away. But today, I discovered a little palestra, hidden in a back alley that nobody knows about except the shop keepers, less than 100 meters from my apartment.
Party time. The music goes on and the room is transformed into some combination of a 1970's Jane Fonda/Richard Simmons aerobics class....but with a passionate Italian energy that is contagious. I actually had fun, and eventually broke a sweat. When we got down for the floor exercises I was amazed at the sounds, the dramatic grunts of pain, the panting, the superlative expressions of exhaustion, the tears, the groans and sighs. We in America would never let our guard down. We swallow the pain and keep a straight face. But here, no feeling is ever hidden. If they feel pain, they express it, they exaggerate it, they dramatize it. The very essence of the Italian spirit that I've been yearning to reincorporate into my life.