Looking for Quirky Things to do in Venice: Visit Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop

The entrance to Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice Italy, a bookshop very different to anything else you have experienced.

When searching for places to visit in Venice, St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s palace and the Rialto Bridge are always firm favourites but what about Venice’s hidden gems after all the city is a maze of tiny streets linked by bridges and waterways, there must be a thing of two worth seeing that isn’t listed in every single guidebook.

One such place, located slightly off the beaten track on what could be called a secret corner of Venice far away from the maddening crowds, is Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop which some have aptly called the most interesting bookshop in the world. 

The entrance to Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice perhaps the most unique bookshop in the world. Located in the Castello District of Venice, this bookshop has everything you could want and plenty more.

Today it is not just one of the most famous bookshops in Venice or even Italy but is widely known across the world, perhaps because of its eccentric interior. In fact, the acqua alta bookshop in Venice is home to what many would describe as an eclectic mix of old household items crammed full to the brim with books about almost anything.  From atlases and dictionaries to the Classics and history books, this little treasure trove, of mainly second hand books, is a haven for all book lovers wanting to escape the overcrowded narrow streets and the bustling piazzas.

Luigi Frizzo, the ever-so unconventional owner of the libreria bookshop, however prefers to call it the ‘most beautiful bookshop in the world’, and I happen to agree.

Luigi Frizzo has declared his bookshop the most wonderful in the world and it is easy to see why. Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice is possibly the most unique bookshop in Italy if not the world.

Is Libreria Acqua Alta really the most beautiful bookshop in the whole world?

Not just for book geeks, this peculiar, yet inviting retreat will captivate all that enter.  You will be drawn inside after passing by and seeing the bizarre scene that confronts you.  Never before have I stumbled across a bookshop happy to display novels in an ancient, rusting wheel-barrow that you first gaze upon because of the striking cherry-red colour of its wheel against the ashen stone floor.  At this point you begin to question whether you should sit down on the rocking chair, that has clearly seen better days, to peruse through the untold gems yellowing in the open air or take a leap of faith and head inside to explore the cluttered, bespoke bookshop.

Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop in Venice Italy has a whole array of unusual bookshelves to look through including this wheelbarrow. If you notice, they have also positioned a rocking chair carefully nearby just in case you fancy sitting down to read on of your new finds.

The bookshelves are bulging with a mixture of musty antique finds, new releases and maps – both new and old.  Add bookmarks, postcards, an odd collection of prints and a section devoted to Casanova and you begin to realise that this is not just another Italian bookshop but a hoarder’s paradise.

Hidden within the shelves of Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice you will not only find hoards of books but postcards, bookmarks, posters, calendars and even the odd cat relaxing here and there.

Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice isn’t just about books.

Can this Little Acqua Alta Bookstore get any Better?

Not only are books stacked on shelves, creaking under the pressure, but wander further inside and you will see that every nook and cranny has been crammed full and aisles are narrow to allow for the ever-growing collection.  The inventive and ingenious use of bathtubs, canoes, boats has to be commended, but for me it is the centre piece that grabs everyone’s undying attention – for inside is Venice’s very own bookshop gondola.

the gondola of Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice Italy, full to the brim with books to buy.

Both the front and the back of the gondola are crammed full of books.

Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop in Venice is the only bookshop in the world to have a gondola of floating books during acqua alta each winter.

While this may add to its slightly off-the-wall design, there is a very good reason for having everything stored away in this unique manner.  Each year, during the winter months, the city floods meaning that the high waters of Venice can cause unspeakable amounts of damage to all who live and work there.  These high waters, also known as Acqua Alta in Venice, are unpredictable and even though the city has developed a way of coping with the rising tides, it is with some alarm that on occasion even these predictions are widely off course.  Imagine waking up one day thinking that waters will rise about 1 metre only to realise that the authorities got it wrong and it actually rose 1.5 metres overnight.  I can’t even begin to envisage how Venice bookshop owner might feel if they were to lose their prize possessions, hence the gondola, bathtubs and kayak.  At least this way, the biggest concern Luigi Frizzo has is whether he might see a collection of his books float off down the Grand Canal rather than being completely destroyed.  Libreria Acqua Alta is therefore quite a fitting name for his beloved bookshop as it translates to mean ‘Library of High Waters’.

the boats of Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop in Venice Italy has boats, kayaks and even bathtubs full of books to prevent damage during the yearly rising of the waters (acqua alta)


Libreria Acqua Alta Stacks of books in Boat in Venice Italy. This is to help prevent damage during acqua alta which happens each winter in this sinking city.

“In Venice, things not always as they first appear…” (Laura Morelli, The Gondola Maker)

The bizarre nature of this fascinating place continues as you browse further into its depths.  With a reading corner on the steps of the canal and an outdoor staircase made entirely out of books stacked high allowing you to venture up to see over the wall into the adjourning waterway; it really is the most creative use of books I have ever seen. 

Libreria Acqua Alta The reading corner of a Venice bookshop that is like none other.

Could you ever imagine a better reading nook?

the book-steps of Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice are a highlight of anyone's visit. Climb up and from here you can see right over the wall to the canals below.

The famed book-steps of Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice

This is a bookshop in Venice that is always evolving.  Since our late visit, a further gondola has been tied up just beside one of the many reading nooks on a small side canal which allows the bookshop’s visitors to relax on the water and sample one of the many reading titles found just inside. 

The gondola of Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice where you can always relax with a good book.

Why not pick up a new book and take it outside to ready for a while on the bookshop’s gondolaBooks of the Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice Italy. Such a unique place, even the window sill has books stored on it.Books can be found quite literally everywhere

Since opening its doors in 2004, Libreria Acqua Alta, has grown in popularity with both Venetians and tourists alike, becoming a stop-off for all book lovers, cartographers and anyone with an intrigue for something different.  Whether you are looking to purchase books about Venice, old world books that will no doubt only increase in value over time or simply purchase any other of the 100,000 odd used books in stock, walking away empty handed will be difficult for any serious bookworm. However, even if you don’t purchase anything, which in truth will be difficult when surrounded by such a vast amount of literature, the owner is happy for people to simply wander around, explore and snap away with their cameras.

If, when you visit this aging city, you find yourself in the Castello area, take a moment to seek out this unique bookshop and see for yourself the quirky insides of one of Venice’s hidden wonders.

How to find Libreria Acqua Alta Venice

Libreria bookstore is open from 9am – 8pm

Address: Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome) | 5176/B – Castello, 30122 Venice, Italy. It’s very close to Piazza San Giovanni e Paolo

Have you visited possibly the most unique bookshop in the world?  Perhaps you believe that there is another bookshop that challenges for this title.  If so, we would love to hear about it.

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Looking for something different to do next time you visit Venice? Have you heard about the most unusual bookshop in the world?  @tbookjunkie explains why everyone who visits the floating city in Italy should visit this one of a kind bookshop known as Libreria Acqua Alta.


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  • I know Venice is jammed with tourists during the summer. Was there once with my family when I was a kid and never dared to go back since. However, this bookstore looks like total heaven. As a booknerd myself, I’d love to hang out here for a while, escaping the crowds…

  • Margherita says:

    You know Tam, I’ve been to venice dozens of times but I’ve never heard of this bookshop. I think this deserves a trip. It looks amazing, and I’m sure half of the fun will be finding it!

  • Tim says:

    What an incredible little book shop. Actually I don’t know how little it is but that was just a term of endearment. It looks awesome. Steps made out of books…that’s very cool…as long as you don’t want to read them 🙂

  • Charli says:

    WOW! What a find, I’d love to explore the shelves and sit for hours reading. I know where I’m heading when I finally make it to Venice!

  • Beth says:

    This is such a gem in Venice!! I didn’t see it while I was there this summer, but when I go back I need to seek this place out! Thanks for sharing.

    • It has taken me years to find this little place even though I have known of its existence! Next time I visit I am sure that I will still get lost in the maze of narrow streets trying to find it but I think that is part of the fun when it comes to visiting Venice! 🙂

  • ALli says:

    I could live here! Haven’t seen anything like this before . . it looks so beautiful. All those antique and weathered paperbacks . . . I’d love to wander here!!!

  • Uhhhmazing!

    I want to go here! And I have little desire otherwise to go to Venice!

  • One, I love bookstores. Two, when I was in Venice I missed this. I’ll just have to return. –Curt

  • Lauren says:

    What an intriguing little place! I love books and bookshops and it would be great to explore this place. It is amazing how the owner knows where to find everything!

    • Lauren I was completely shocked that anything could be found with some serious searching on the owner’s part. Whilst we were there we experienced, on three separate occasions, a customer asking whether he has a specific book and each time he was able to navigate his way around the shelves to find the book within minutes; quick than some modern chain bookshops. I also overheard him asking customers if they had an edition in mind, so he didn’t just remember titles but publishing dates as well. they do say that some people can work in organised chaos and I believe that this is one of those examples. 🙂

  • Megan Claire says:

    This looks like such a fab place in Venice – while I love that you included the address and directions to find it lol I think if I head back I would have to stumble across it – I get so incredibly lost while trying to navigate my way through Ventian streets!

    • Megan, we had the address and I had looked on the map before heading into the side streets and it still took us over an hour to find it. Having said that, by getting lost we also stumbled upon a pleasure, quiet piazza full of locals enjoying their lunch and a couple of other, smaller bookshops to enjoy. I think that is part of the charm in Venice though, getting lost is all part of the fun! 🙂

  • Hannah says:

    Ahh I’ve been to Venice twice and not seen this! Must go back, it looks magical! I’m a total book geek. LOVE IT!

    • Hannah, it has taken me years to find this particular bookshop. I was so determined on this visit that my husband and I spent over an hour walking the nearby streets to find it. The most frustrating part – we were no more than 5 minutes away from it, found a cafe and decided that if we couldn’t find it within 15 minutes we would give up. All that time spent wandering streets within touching distance of the shop itself.

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