Libreria Acqua Alta: The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you book a tour or hotel through my link I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. By supporting me through these links, you’re helping me keep this site awesome and deliver top-notch content to you. Your support means the world to me, and I’m incredibly grateful for it!

There’s more to Venice than just its canals and magnificent palaces. Tucked away in this city is a hidden gem that book lovers will adore – the Libreria Acqua Alta.

Libreria Acqua Alta bookstore, which translates to “High Water Bookstore,” is famous for its unique approach to combating Venice’s frequent floods, known as “Acqua Alta.” Instead of traditional bookshelves, you’ll find books stored in waterproof bins, bathtubs, and even a full size gondola!

Visiting Libreria Acqua Alta, you’ll be greeted by stacks of books in every corner, creating a labyrinth of literature waiting to be explored. And let’s not forget the resident cats who add to the bookstore’s unique charm.

In this article, I’ll take you on a virtual tour of Libreria Acqua Alta, exploring its history, unique features, and why it’s a must-visit spot in Venice. So, whether you’re a bookworm or a curious traveler, get ready to dive into the magical world of Libreria Acqua Alta.

History of Libreria Acqua Alta: The Venice Bookstore with Book Steps

This unique bookstore is the brainchild of Luigi Frizzo, a man whose life has been a fascinating journey of passion and exploration. Born in Vicenza, Luigi’s thirst for knowledge and adventure led him to distant lands like Polynesia, Egypt, and the Orient, immersing him in diverse cultures.

Eventually, Luigi’s journey brought him to Venice, where he decided to open his own used bookstore. 

Faced with the challenge of Venice’s frequent high tides, or “Acqua Alta,” Luigi ingeniously repurposed discarded boats and bathtubs from nearby buildings to protect the books from water damage. This innovative solution has since become one of the bookstore’s unique attractions.

Another serendipitous event in Luigi’s life was his discovery of a deep affection for cats when he agreed to take in a cat for a friend, which unexpectedly turned into three. Today, several cats call the bookstore their home, adding to its unique charm.

libreria acqua alta bookstore venice

Unique Features of Libreria Acqua Alta

Stepping into Libreria Acqua Alta is like entering a different world. This quirky bookshop in Venice is filled with unique features that set it apart from other bookstores. One of the first things you’ll notice is the full-size gondola in the middle of the store, filled with books. 

books in gondola libreria acqua alta bookstore venice

This boat filled with titles is not just a quirky decoration, but a practical solution to the high tides that Venice often experiences and literally floods the bookstore.

Perhaps the most photographed feature of this beautiful bookstore is the staircase made of old books, also known as the “book steps.” This staircase leads to a view of a canal, offering a unique perspective of the city. Each of these features contributes to making Libreria Acqua Alta one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.

bookstore with book steps for stairs at libreria acqua alta

How to Visit the Libreria Acqua Alta

Planning a visit to Libreria Acqua Alta is an essential part of any trip to Venice. Located in the Castello district, near Campo Santa Maria Formosa, the bookstore is a short walk from the famous St. Mark’s Basilica.

As you enter this beautiful bookstore, you’ll be greeted by a world of stories waiting to be discovered. From Italian classics to contemporary titles, the book store is a treasure trove for book lovers.

Try to get there when the shop opens up so you aren’t faced with large crowds. It is no longer a secret and people line up to see this unique store and take a picture for their Instagram account. 

If you have a dog with you

While dogs are allowed all over Venice, they are restricted in the bookstore unless you can hold it while visiting. Since there are many cats here, the presence of a dog, even while on a leash, may cause problems. 

libreria acqua alta dog warning

Climb the steps

At the back of the bookstore is the courtyard where there is a staircase made out of old books. Climbing to the top will give you a great view of a small canal behind the shop. 

When the bookstore is crowded and there is a long line to take a picture there, expect to be asked to donate a couple of euro to do so. 

Check out the fire exit

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, there is a fire escape at the rear of the shop. That’s where you will see a sign of what to do in case of fire which is to walk out of the door and into the canal. 

It’s yet another reminder of the offbeat sense of humor of the owner Luigi. 

If you do happen to be here during the acqua alta period then it is through this door that water will be coming into the shop. Even when there is high water, the shop remains open so you can still visit but make sure to wear some rubber boots. 

Pet the cats

One of the unique aspects of your visit will be the chance to interact with the resident cats. These feline companions add a touch of charm to the shop, often seen lounging on the stacks of books. 

cats of libreria acqua alta

When it gets busy there, they tend to hide out and can’t really be seen much. However, if you are there early before the crowds then you will not only see them, but they will look for some cuddles before finding their favorite spot to lounge on the books. 

Make a purchase

Entrance to the bookshop is free and a purchase is not required to visit. However, it is a good idea to make a purchase. You may not want to buy a book that will weigh you down, but there are a lot of other items to take a memento back from your trip. 

For instance, they have plenty of magnets, calendars, and bookmarks for sale that make excellent Venice souvenirs

In fact, their cat themed items are very popular so you are sure to find the perfect gift for the cat and book lover in your life there.  Aside from that, you can find books on every topic including the history of Venice, such as the time of the courtesans of Venice.

cats of libreria acqua alta bookmark

If you do plan to buy a book there, ask for help. It may seem chaotic and there is no organization as far as the books go. However, if you know the particular book or at least the topic then the staff or the owner himself will direct you to the right bathtub or rowboat jam-packed with books.

Also, the books are not just in Italian. You will find many in other languages as well.

Where to Find Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta

Libreria Acqua Alta is located in the heart of Venice, in the Castello district. The exact address is Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176/B, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy. It’s a short walk from the famous Piazza San Marco, making it easily accessible for tourists visiting the city’s main attractions.

Libreria Acqua Alta Phone Number

+39 041 296 0841

When to Visit the Libreria Acqua Alta

Current hours of operation are 9:15 AM – 7:45 PM

The best time to visit Libreria Acqua Alta depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. The bookstore is open year-round, so you can plan your visit according to your schedule and preferences.

  1. Avoiding Crowds: If you prefer a quieter, more intimate experience, consider visiting during the off-peak tourist season, which is typically from November to March, although February can get quite busy during Carnevale season. Keep in mind that Venice can be quite chilly during these months, so dress warmly.

  2. Experiencing Acqua Alta: If you want to witness the phenomenon that gave the bookstore its name, plan your visit during the Acqua Alta season, which usually occurs in the autumn and winter months. This is when Venice experiences its highest tides, causing parts of the city to flood. It’s a unique experience, but be prepared for possible disruptions to your travel plans.

  3. Enjoying Good Weather: If you’re looking for pleasant weather, consider visiting between April and June or September and October. These months offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds than the peak summer months.

  4. Visiting During the Day: Libreria Acqua Alta is usually less crowded in the early morning hours, right after it opens. This is a great time to explore the bookstore at your leisure before the larger crowds arrive.

Wrapping It Up

Visiting the Libreria Acqua Alta is more than just a shopping trip; it’s an adventure. It’s a chance to step into a world where books come alive and tell stories of their own. It’s an opportunity to witness how the city’s challenges have been turned into unique features that add to its charm.

After you’ve visited Lbreria Acqua Alta, it is sure to leave lasting memories of the self-proclaimed “Most Beautiful Bookshop in Italy”.

If you need more tips to help you get the most out of your trip to Venice, make sure to click the links below.

Sal Presti

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *