I remember finding out about this bookshop while watching a documentary on Venice during wintertime with my mum last year. I found it hard to believe that such a place existed in real life and was not a part of a film set. So when I went to Venice last January, I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes. It was actually one of the first thing I ticked off my ‘to-see-list’. It’s no easy feat to locate the Libreria Acqua Alta, like most places in Venice, really. I was walking on a shopping street, literally about to give up, when I stumbled upon a little square, or campiello as they call it there. At the back of it, an arched entrance, lit up from inside, seemed to invite me in. Could it be it, I thought, trying to match what I saw with my televised memory. ‘Welcome to the most beautiful bookshop in the World‘ says a sign… Surely, if one bookshop could legitimately claim this title, it had to be the one I saw in the documentary. So, in I went!
Once inside, there couldn’t be any confusion. I was indeed standing in the aptly-named Libreria Acqua Alta I had seen on my screen a few months earlier. Towers and towers of second-hand books standing in bathtubs, gondolas, crates and other little boats. All at the ready for the next flooding or Acqua Alta (literally meaning high water). As the bookshop stands just on the bank of the canal, it gets flooded during those extreme high tides that Venice experiences during Winter. If you go at the back of the shop, there’s a little corner with a couple of chairs facing an opening on the canal (the ‘fire escape’, see picture above), you can see there already the water dangerously licking the wall of the shop.
If you want to have an idea what the shop looks like during high tide, talk to the dapper owner who wears a tricorn. He’s super chatty and friendly and will happily show you pictures he took of his shop flooded. He will also make sure that you saw all the ‘best bits’ of the shop: the aforementioned fire escape, the courtyard with the staircase made of books (which you can actually climb!), a trippy 3D Venice picture and other bits and bobs…
Also, this shop gets extra bookish points for all the cute cats roaming around. I feel like this place has been dreamed and imagined by every book-lover in the world. I wish I had bought a book so I can have a physical memory of this wonderful place but I was silly, too busy taking pictures and filming (multitasking is not my strong suit obviously). I did spot a selection of books in the English and French language so the shop is also catered to tourists. That is if you’re ready to rummage through boats and gondolas of books!
Libreria Acqua Alta
Campiello del Tintor
Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa, 5176
Opening Hours: 9am -8pm (every day)