Libreria Acqua Alta (high water bookshop) is a charmingly eccentric book shop named for the flooding that afflicts Venice when water levels in the Venetian lagoon are high.
The entrance, in a little courtyard with no name, is lined with tables and postcard stands, and probably at least one of the cats that consider the shop home, curled up on a pile of sun-warmed books or tucked into in a shaded nook.
Inside is a warren-like maze of rooms, each one crammed with new and second-hand books, many of them displayed inside an old gondola, a canoe, a bathtub, and several wooden rowboats.
The nautical theme continues with an old ship’s wheel, a life-buoy ring and a wooden barrel. Heavily-laden, higgledy-piggledy bookshelves, boxes and crates line the walls from floor-to-ceiling. A few dusty chandeliers complete the look.
In a tiny back garden, piles of decrepit old (and no doubt water-damaged) books have been stacked to form a stair case – a note on the wall invites you to climb up for a pretty view over the tall brick wall. Before you get upset, these are the kind of books nobody buys anymore – encyclopedia’s and other huge reference tomes.
In another outdoor alley space are more towers of books and a round metal table and chairs.
Back inside, and there’s an open fire exit (straight into the waters of the canal), with a comfortable armchair and bench for reading in the sunlight.
As well as a wide range of books, the shop also sells postcards, prints and posters, sheet music, maps and calendars and there’s even an Erotica shelf of X-rated books and risque items, including a jug that I might well have bought had I trusted that I could carry it home safely.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome)
Sestiere Castello 5176B
Open daily 9:00-20:00
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