Madonna's Hard Candy Fitness Opening Rome Location

Madonna is opening a luxury gym in Rome

The music star has strong ties to the country of her ancestors, but much of the headlines she makes in Italy have been controversial.

ROME – Hard Candy Fitness, the luxury fitness company founded by pop icon Madonna, announced it will make a bid to help Romans become fitter, with the opening of the first Hard Candy Fitness location in the Eternal City, just around the corner from Rome’s Coliseum.

There’s no word if the decision to open the 13,000-square-foot fitness facility this year is connected to reports that the Material Girl may be considering a move to Rome. Newspaper reports that Madonna was house shopping in Italy’s capital started appearing last summer and have resurfaced occasionally since then.

Hard Candy Fitness Rome, which owners said would open in May, is in partnership with a local fitness network, Dabliu. The three-story facility will be huge by Rome standards, where most gyms in the historical center are less than one-fifth that size. The company said the Coliseum location will be the first of several others that will open this year, including other locations in Rome.

“Hard Candy Fitness Rome will showcase the brand’s unique fitness approach and luxury atmosphere in one of the most historic, famous neighborhoods in the world,” Hard Candy Fitness VP Mike Apple said in a statement.

In August, Madonna was reported to be eyeing luxury villas or apartments in two Roman neighborhoods: on the stylish Aventine Hill -- less than a mile from the Hard Candy Fitness location -- or in the iconoclastic neighborhood designed by early 20th-century architect Gino Coppede. Madonna has never confirmed the reports.

Even if the reports of Madonna moving to Rome turn out to be false, the singer born as Madonna Louise Ciccone has always maintained close ties to the country of her ancestors: her personal $500,000 donation to help the victims of the deadly 2009 earthquake in Abruzzo was larger than the first wave of aid from the U.S. government. She has also weighed in on Italian affairs, including critiques of controversial former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is seeking a fourth term in office next month. Additionally, Madonna’s directorial effort, W.E., first premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

But Madonna has earned the most headlines in Italy for her repeated clashes with the Vatican, dating back as far as 1989 when her song “Like a Prayer” was attacked as “blasphemous” for its vision of burning crosses and a scene where Madonna seduced a black actor playing Jesus Christ. In 2004, the Holy See attached her for her Kabbalah religious faith, considered a threat to Catholicism. And two years later, she was blasted for a concert in Rome in which she sung while hanging from a crucifix, prompting a call from a leading cardinal for her excommunication.

Last year, she attracted more headlines in a June concert, in which she flashed her buttocks.