The sign outside says ‘Welcome to the most beautiful book shop in the world’.
It was the one place on my must-see list on our recent trip to Venice.
Libraria Acqua Alta is a second-hand book shop that can be found in the quiet back streets of the Italian city.
It’s a book lovers dream, filled to overflowing with piles and piles of books and quirky features. Rather than display his stock on shelves like most book store owners, the proprietor has filled the shop with repurposed items.
The first thing that catches your eye as you walk in is the old gondola in the main room, piled high with books, and in the side room you can find bathtubs full of yellowed novels.
But the outdoor space is perhaps the most charming part of the shop. In the small yard at the back, is a staircase made entirely of books, built so that you can climb up and take a peek over the wall onto the canal below, or pose for a photo.
Away from St. Mark’s Square, Venice is a small city, with narrow streets and tiny shops and restaurants that make clever use of their space. So I was surprised at how big this shop was, with quite a bit of outdoor space.
Despite printing some directions from Google Maps before we left, I had struggled for the first couple of days to find this place. But a bit more research online and I realised that we had actually been incredibly close to it on a couple of occasions.
If you’re in the city and you would like to visit, head away from St. Marks’s Square in the direction of the Rialto Bridge, but head to the right before you get there. Wander across to the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, one of the larger squares in the city, where you can find a famous church. You’ll spot the Hotel Scandinavia; make your way along the narrow street that runs alongside it. Just before you reach the canal you’ll find the Libraria Acqua Alta on the left.
It was late when we finally found the shop, about 15 minutes before closing time. If it wasn’t for that, I could have happily pottered around the shop for hours browsing the vast range of books on display.
If you’re visiting Venice, you must call in here!