“And there are really cats living here?” the American tourist asked, after squeezing his way through the narrow piles of books to the cash register. The employee affirmed calmly. Cats in a bookstore, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. But what’s normal in the Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice after all?
The entrance to this other world is hidden in an alleyway of Venice, a little off the beaten track of the usual tourist stream. If there weren’t several piles of old cards, prints and books lying around chaotically in front of the door, you wouldn’t expect to find this treasure for book readers like me . Bookshops and libraries always have been special for me – so calming, so inspiring. And the Libreria Acqua Alta is not just that: it is magical. A total work of art. Thousands of stacks of books, old, new, a mess, it’s narrow, dark, but still fascinatingly beautiful. It’s like landing in the middle of a Harry Potter book. Between all the books there is always a little bowl with cat food – the (I think) eight cats want to be fed.
Books are stacked everywhere, whether in an old gondola or in a bathtub – the ideas of how to store books are endless. Creative chaos in every corner. Another quirky spot is the “emergency exit”: With a hop you immediately land in the canal that runs along the back of the shop. Just a little typical Venice flood – and the bookstore is flooded. Thus the name Acqua Alta!
Unfortunately, the Libreria Acqua Alta is no longer a real insider tip, so most of the time you have to face crowds of other tourists – and if you want to take a photo in the especially instagrammable corners, you have to wait for a quarter of an hour. Crazy, isn’t it? Nevertheless: It’s worth a visit!
Address: Libreria Acqua Alta, Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa 5176 – Castello, 30122 Venice
Opening hours: daily from 9-20h
Do you know any more bizarre bookstores? What is your favourite bookstore?