According to the sign out front, the Libreria Acqua Alta is “the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World”, and it really is one of the coolest bookstores you’ll ever visit – a true homage to the eclectic history of Venice. Literally translated to “library of high water”, the space (and the neighborhood) occasionally floods, but that just adds to the charm. The quirky jumble of books, boats, and cats here is the stuff of movie sets and all that’s missing is the 12th century scribe lost in thought over a pile of books in the corner. There are photo ops galore and so many interesting books to peruse, you could easily spend hours right here.
The bookshop was founded in 2004 by the idea of Luigi Frizzo, a native of Vicenza but Venetian by adoption, who with his creativity and genius, perhaps the result of a life spent traveling the world, manages to tell Venice in a unique authentic way.
The city could in fact be said enclosed in this microcosm made of books, strange furnishings, cats and of course high water. You understood very well. To protect the many volumes from the water that gradually enters the shop, there are no shelves or shelves, but gondolas, canoes, boats and tanks. There is not even a digital catalog to find the desired book more easily, but you can still rely on the very kind Luigi who probably knows by heart the location of many works.
In addition to being an eclectic casanova bookseller, Mr. Frizzo is indeed a precious guide for those who venture into his shop. He is always willing to respond to the curiosity that one has to ask and, with a smile and a bit of pride, he indicates to tourists and customers what he defines the goodies of the bookshop: a scale of books, the emergency exit and the gondola.
The scale of books is actually an original device to allow customers to enjoy the view on the Venetian canals and the palace where Hugo Pratt set one of the stories of Corto Maltese. But as Luigi reveals in an interview, what strikes is the scale itself rather than the panorama. I assure you that you will be amazed. Do not worry, however, because no book has been mistreated to do it. It is only a matter of creative recycling as it is composed of ruined books destined for pulp. Even the emergency exit is a glimpse of ten and praise: a window on the canals with chairs and sofa to watch the spectacle of the tide that rises or greet the gondolas passing.
To orient yourself among the high rows of books, you will have only simple hand-written signs. The titles available are really a lot. A lot of used, ancient and very unobtainable volumes that make the happiness of pretentious readers, but also best-sellers and quite original versions like the “Little Prince” in the Venetian dialect. With a little ‘patience and a bit of luck you could go out with the book you were looking for a long time. And if you do not find anything interesting, do not worry because you have always visited one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
You are wondering how a bookstore like that, totally unrelated to the logic of the publishing market, can survive. The confusion reigns, attracts and works great because there is no crisis for this bookshop completely over the top. Perhaps you will lose yourself in the foreign literature section, you will walk around looking at you in a maze of books, or you will take photographs in a burst to not lose even a corner of this absolute rarity. In any case, this will be a Venice that you will hardly forget, especially if you love books.
The “Acqua Alta” bookshop is located on Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa (also known as Castello Sestiere 5176 / B) and is open every day from 9 to 20.