Remarkable Bookstores: Libreria Acqua Alta

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you are in Venice and cross the Ponte Tetta, walking south on the Calle Tetta, and turn right turn (opposite the direction of the Ponte Cavagnis) you will come across a small cul-de-sac on your right. When you get to the end of the cul-de-sac you will be rewarded with the sight of the Liberia Aqua Alta (translated from the Italian it means the “high water bookstore”; visitors often refer to it as the Bookshop Aqua Alta.) At the entrance is a sign that reads “The most beautiful bookstore in the world.” But of course, as everyone knows, beauty is in the eye of beholder. Let’s take a look inside.

What makes the Liberia Aqua Alta truly remarkable is that the owner has had to find a way to protect the books from Venice’s constant flooding. So naturally, the best solution is to place books in water-proof vessels. And since this is Venice, you will find a large colorful gondola filled with stacks of books. Books are also stored in smaller canoes, stacked crates, bathtubs, and barrels. There are traditional shelves that began several inches up from the floor. The store is filled with thousands of books, both in English and Italian, many of them vintage. Customers are guided through the sections of the store, punctuated with colorfully-dressed mannequins, by its gregarious owner. And like many used bookstores, this one is inhabited by a black cat.

The front door is flanked by tables and racked that are filled with magazines, comics, maps and ephemera. At the back of the store is an exit (labelled as a fire escape) that leads to a small courtyard lined with books and a staircase made out of books (which have been damaged by water) that leads to a small canal. On the rock wall adjacent to the steps is hand-drawn lettering that reads “Follow the books / steps / climb” to lead customers to the store from the canal.

You can take a virtual tour at the bottom of this webpage:

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