The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

I have a small, but really not quite so small, obsession with books, and even more with bookshops. Over the years I’ve found a few notable ones, such as Livraria Lello in Porto, Cărturești Carusel in Bucharest, Topping & Company in Edinburgh, and the ever-popular Shakespeare & Company in Paris, and I’m always looking for more. Acqua Alta, as this beauty entrenched in the never-ending alleys of Venice is called, is probably the most unique yet.

Libreria Acqua Alta

Located near the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, the bookshop is a smorgasbord of paper, water-damaged piles of books, and trinkets.

The shop was opened in 2004 by Luigi Frizzo, who was born in Vincenza but has adopted Venice as his hometown. His intention was to create a space that felt like a metaphor for the city, creating a labyrinth of books and other items in a chaos that is both distracting and mesmerizing.

It feels part-bookshop, part-art installation, part-someone’s home — if that someone were a hoarder. The very idea of shelves seems outdated when wandering through its many rooms, as books are piled directly on the floor, atop water-damaged volumes to form a staircase, in buckets, and even inside a gondola. And I bought absolutely nothing because my eyes couldn’t rest on anything for long enough to even consider a purchase.

Papier Machè Venezia

Right next to Acqua Alta is a really beautiful Venetian mask atelier, and though I purchased nothing here either, I was sorely tempted. The mask I eventually brought home was waiting for me elsewhere in the city…

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