The Popular Gym San Lorenzo was founded in 1998 with the underlying idea of promoting sport for all in order to promote improvements in the economic conditions and quality of life of people. The first exercise classes started in 2000, after two years spent in renovating the former dilapidated canteen. The renovation process was based on a participatory and self-financing approach. The community-based gym has today between 550 and 770 members of all ages although the majority of them belong to the age group of 18-40. During the first years the gym was totally run on a volunteer basis while today it is able to pay 15 sports instructors providing them a minimum wage of 8.5 Euros per hour. In addition, the gym faces approximately 15 thousand Euros of expenses for utilities.
The main activities involve the provision of social sport, that is accessible and ethical. The gym aims to promote different social relationships, and therefore it has become a reference place for many community-based and cooperative activities. It organises free classes for local associations that deal with children and adults living in difficult economic conditions, and for the primary schools based in the neighbourhood.
In 2016, it let about 600/700 refugees, who were hosted by the Association Baobab, use its bathroom and shower facilities. Recently, Palestra Popolare San Lorenzo has been also collaborating with a similar gym in Brazil which aims to reproduce this model of intervention with the children living in the favelas. This community-based gym has developed a clear, open and reliable cultural identity, and it serves as an example of the idea of the commons in a neighbourhood undergoing a gentrification process. This strength was also expressed in response to a dispute with the local administration when thousands of children, adults and old people took the streets to give support to this experience.
There are many community-based gyms that promote sport as a right an a public good both in Rome and in Italy.
For more details, you can read the storytelling of Palestra Popolare di San Lorenzo in the book "Generazioni Precarie. Una conricerca tra percezione del rischio, bisogni emergenti, welfare dal basso”, that is part of “Commonfare Book Series“
Here the complete report in english
Addess: Via dei Volsci, 94 a Roma.