Libreria Acqua Alta: the flooded bookshop

Venice is flooded. People are wading along the streets in a foot or two of water and the buildings are boarded up. But the Libreria Acqua Alta is still open for business. In fact it’s in its element.

The Libreria Acqua Alta (translated as the High Water Bookshop), like many other places in Venice, is prone to flooding. It can be anything from a few centimetres to over a metre under water as often as 10 times a year. This day it was somewhere in between. 

But there is no panic, no preparations or preventions – apart from moving a few books to higher ground. Some are already in boats. Most, however, act as furniture and are sacrificed to the water. No, nothing different happens. Flooding is so normal as to almost be a part of every day life in the bookshop. Then they take it one step further; they identify themselves by it. And that’s what makes it so brilliant.

You can’t help but admire the seemingly blase attitude of its owners. Apart from the fact they are wearing wellies you wouldn’t even know anything out of the ordinary was happening. Well it is quite normal for them.

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And if that wasn’t amazing enough, take a look around and cast your eye upon the little quirks that make up the shop itself.

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Libreria Acqua alta panorama

This was my favourite experience of Venice. I kept thinking of how it was such a unique thing to do – visiting a treasure-trove bookshop, open as normal, whilst a foot or two under water. People have paid money to see things much less fantastic, and this bookshop is in a whole different league of amazing to most of the things you pay for, especially when flooded. There’s no pomp, no arrogance, no pretence. Just walk in and have a browse.

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33 thoughts on “Libreria Acqua Alta: the flooded bookshop

  1. Oh, I wish I’d found this place when I was there last year (and it was flooded then too). I love bookshops and this looks like my kind of bookshop! A lovely story and incredible images Justine. I especially like the last one which seems like a longer exposure, or no one was disturbing the water!!

  2. I wish I had known about this bookshop years ago when I visited Venice. I am sure it would end up being one of my favorite places, I absolutely adore bookstores. I even took to collecting books in the local language of every city I visit. This bookshop definitely will be a stop next time I’m in Venice. Thanks for blogging about!

  3. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe your blog. I’m also worried that these places might not be as astounding in real life as they are through your lenses. I’ll just stick to experiencing them through your photos 🙂

  4. I love your description and it is really an amazing place!

    Hello, I am wordsdreamer. I am running a blog by presenting some translation practices. Recently I chose a BBC’s story: Ten of the World’s Most Beautiful Bookshops to do my translating work and they used your photo as the cover in the report of Libreria Acqua Alta. That’s how I am here!

    I want to provide more visual information about this bookshop and I think your photos are really great! May I put some of your photos on my blog?

  5. I think I just fell in love. What a treasure! Wish I can visit it someday, as well. Thanks for sharing your experience there. 🙂

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