Libreria Acqua Alta: Individuality just a stone’s throw away from San Marco Piazza

Sign outside a bookshop in Venice Italy

In the heat of the summer months, when the streets are overcome with tourists and congestion of the narrow streets can be blamed on excessive foot traffic, sneaking off to find a peaceful haven in the shadows away from the bustling piazzas and well-trodden canal walkways is a must for all, not just the crowd-haters amongst us.

Venice is a city full of tradition and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Once you head away from the natural tourist trails surrounding San Marco Piazza and head into the quieter streets where Venetians spend their days you will undercover the true beauty of this crumbling, albeit charming, metropolis.

Since a teenager, I have wandered miles around this unique, water-infused labyrinth seeking out the true face of a city loved by millions.  Each day the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are swamped by over 60,000 tourists as they leave the comfort of their cruise ships and hotel rooms in search of a slice of the magic that has inspired so many over the years.

“There is something so different in
Venice from any other place in
the world, that you leave at
once all accustomed habits and
everyday sights to enter an
enchanted garden”

(Mary Shelley)

For me, the ‘enchanted garden’ holds many hidden treasures, including one of the most distinctive bookshops I have ever had the pleasure of exploring.

Entrance to the bookshop in Venice Italy

Set in a quiet alcove, moments away from the commotion of modern day Venice, Libreria Acqua Alta, is a bookshop with a twist.

Wheelbarrow and rocking chair outside bookshop in Venice Italy

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 into explore the cluttered, bespoke bookshop.

Bookshop entrance in Venice Italy

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

Book shelves of the bookshop in Venice Italy

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 to delight all book junkies.  Aisles are narrow to allow for the ever-growing collection.  The inventive and ingenious use of bathtubs, canoes, boats and a gondola allow for even more to be displayed, despite the ever-present threat of rising canal water.

Stacks of books in Boat in Venice Italy

Books in boat

Gondola of books in Venice Italy

The affable and polite owner, Luigi Frizzo, is always on hand to help find the book you desire – name a book and if it is in his collection, he knows exactly where it is.  Every genre and most languages are catered for in this remarkable hideaway.

The eccentric 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, this is a wonderful place to spend time.

Reading corner in bookshop, venice italy

Stairs to the canal

“In Venice, things not always as they first appear…”

                                                                                                                       (Laura Morelli, The Gondola Maker)

Since opening its doors, Libreria Acqua Alta, has grown in popularity, becoming a stop-off for all book lovers, cartographers and anyone with an intrigue for something different.  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 ageing 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.

Books in a gondola in Venice Italy

How to find Libreria Acqua Alta

Open daily from 9am – 8pm

  • Address:Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome) | 5176/B – Castello, 30122 Venice, Italy – it’s close to Piazza San Giovanni e Paolo.  If you get lost, don’t worry – ask a local and they will help to direct you to the right spot.

Travelling Book Junkie visits the Venice Bookshop

22 Comments

  • 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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