As soon as I found out about Libreria Acqua Alta before our trip to Venice, I knew that I had to go and see it. It had all the elements to make it my kinda place – first of all, it’s a bookstore, and I’m always happy to visit a bookstore. But it also sounded like the strangest and most wonderful bookstore I’d ever heard of. Libreria Acqua Alta means “High Water Bookshop”. In Italy’s floating city, this can only mean one thing – when a combination of high tide and a wind from the Adriatic forces extra water into the lagoon, this bookshop gets flooded along with many streets. What is one supposed to do with books to protect from water damage and a business to keep open regardless of the weather? Apparently, find a few gondolas and bathtub or two that no one is using anymore, and you’ve got yourself a solution.
We visited Venice at Chirstmas, and based on the time of year and general weather trends, we were expecting some floods. Generally, I don’t wish for floods when I’m visiting a new place, but part of me was hoping for some the day we visited Libreria Acqua Alta. I wanted to see this incredible bookshop in all it’s true flooded glory. Fortunately and unfortunately, it didn’t flood at all while we were in Venice, but that doesn’t take away from the charm of this haphazard bookstore. The moment we turned the corner to see the outside of the shop, I knew I was going to love everything about it.
This isn’t exactly an organised bookstore – there are some defined sections here and there, but for the most part, it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Books are simply everywhere. Standing vertically, laying on their sides, new books and used. If there’s a book you want to buy, you’d better hope one of the owner’s two cats aren’t lounging on top of it, because I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about that.
And of course, you then have the piles and piles of books sitting in gondolas and bathtubs, waiting for you to dig through while they sit there, protected from the water that could be coming up to your shins while you’re at it.
The magic of this place doesn’t even end here – every way you look, there’s another part to explore. Walking all the way to the back of the bookshop, you’ll find this amazing staircase of books. Follow the signs painted on the walls, go up the stairs and look out over the canal next to the bookshop. This was such a nice spot to stop and reflect not only on the opportunity to find such an endearing bookstore in the middle of Venice, but also to appreciate my time in such a magical city so far. It’s also a great photo opportunity!
If you’re visiting Venice, you can’t miss this bookstore. And if it’s flooding, even better.
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