5 Reasons Why ‘Acqua Alta’ Is The Loveliest Bookstore In Venice

About The Acqua Alta Bookstore

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Named “the most beautiful bookstore in the whole of Italy“, Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-see when visiting Venice. Why? An intriguing atmosphere with a creative solution for salvaging the books from the threat posed by the constant floodings in Venice: putting the books on gondolas and bathtubs.

Apart from the curious look and atmosphere, Libreria Acqua Alta is the best spot in town to get your hand on local books written in their native language, which will give you genuine insights into Venetian history and culture.

Why The Best Bookstore In Venice

#1 Here You Can Buy Books On A Budget

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Along the narrow corridors of Libreria Acqua Alta, you will find many second-hand books that can be as cheap as 3 EUR. Those are not only novels but also treatises on politics, sociology, philosophy, etc. There are no limits to the rabbit-holes that these books will suck you into, opening your field of knowledge to parts of history that are mostly unknown to foreigners.

Note that most of the books here will be written in Italian. But take this as an opportunity to learn the language and dig deeper into the vast culture of Venice and Italy as a whole.

#2 Here You Can Get A Nice Canal View

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The fire exit is one of the most famous parts of Libreria Acqua Alta, sou you will always see plenty of people taking pictures here. It gives access to the canal on the back of the bookstore, so you will eventually see boats passing by here.

You will spot it when you see a large green door, with the name of the bookstore written on it with yellow color. If you have the courage, you can climb the ramp and sit on the gondola that is resting outside, but be careful since it is quite unstable.

#3 Here You Can Buy Nice Souvenirs

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If you are looking for nice souvenirs and prints to take home, Acqua Alta is the place for you. Together with the Museum shop at the Palazzo Ducale, this is one of my favorite places to get souvenirs in town.

If you are interested in prints, you can get copies of ancient maps of the city and paintings of beautiful sights across Venice done by locals. If you are looking for something more tangible and that you can take with you anywhere, they also have beautiful golden keychains and pins with the Lion of St. Mark. 

#4 Here You Can Take Great Photos

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Another one of the most famous parts of the Acqua Alta Bookstore is definitely the staircase on the back. It consists of a pile of books that were irreversibly damaged by the floodings of the city, piled together to give access to the view of the canal on the back of the bookstore.

You cannot underestimate how famous this place is. Throughout the whole year, this place with be filled with tourists taking pictures on the top of the staircase. If you wanna have some alone time here, make sure you come early in the morning or right before the closing time. Just make sure you leave in time, so you do not annoy the owners.

#5 Here You Can Pet Cats

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A very lovely aspect of this bookstore is the owner’s cats. They are constantly strolling around, moving their hips from left to right on top of the piles of books throughout the bookstore.

If I am not mistaken, there are five in total. They stay in the bookstore the whole day, but depending on when you come, they might be taking a nap, so you might not be able to see all of them at the same time. Either way, they make visiting the bookstore a much cozier experience.

Book Recommendations

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The books shown above are close to the entrance, laying on the gondola that rests inside the bookstore. They all come from the publisher Edizioni Helvetia and offer a very easy read for beginners in Italian, while at the same time telling very curious stories reflecting the history of Venice.

Claudio Dell’Orso – Venezia Arcana
This book is for those eager to learn about what Venice has that is most unusual: the evocation of the devil by the courtesan Veronica Franco with the King of France, Edgar Allan Poe’s black agenda found by Baron Corvo, the head that screams in Lista dei Bari, the young Stalin at the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, deposits of human bones in the lagoon islands, the mysterious fall of boulders in Campo San Boldo, haunted houses and UFO sightings.

Espedita Grandesso – Fiol d’un can!
Although Venice has a very particular condition, being on the water, the city is not rid of animals. This book tells 17 tales of animals that left their mark on the city’s history: old restaurants perpetually keeping an eye on by dogs ready to take the launch of a bite and run away, the corroded semi-abandoned warehouses where cats hide and fight their eternal war against the brown rats, the dark artisan shops that give onto the streets where sneaky cats from their nook keep the owners company while they work, etc.

Ernesto Maria Sfriso – Serenissima
This book describes 56 portraits of Venetian women who represented the spirit of an age or a particular cultural climate with their way of being, starting from the distant foundation of the lagoon to the present day. Not only famous and widely described figures from historiography, such as the Queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro and the courtesan Veronica Franco, but also common people that are almost forgotten such as the rower Maria Boscolo, the embroiderers Lucrezia and Vittoria Torre, the impudaressa Elisabetta Lazzari or the tabacchina Maria Teresa Trevisan.

Espedita Grandesso – Fantasmi di Venezia
This book describes 17 damned legends illustrated by nineteenth-century prints and accompanied by a brief historical-artistic apparatus that orients the reader to their “crime scenes”. Examples of these legends are the remains of a mysterious skeleton, found in the church of Santo Stefano, the story of a man who pretends to be a beggar to earn alms and gives vent to an abominable vice, and the man in charge of delivering some precious and top-secret documents, stumbling upon the Austrian militia and confessing only at the hands of a not so holy abbot.

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