For many years now, there have been warnings that Venice could eventually be underwater. However, one local business has prepared its inventory for this possibility by storing these items in canoes, bathtubs, and a gondola. This crafty business is a bookstore called Liberia Acqua Alta, ‘Bookstore of High Water’.
Located near Piazza San Marco, this self-proclaimed ‘Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World’ opened back in 2001. The store is packed to the rafters with every type of book and magazine imaginable, with the front half of the store dedicated to books about Venice. In the spaces not covered by books, chandeliers, boating accessories on the walls, and mannequins wearing beautiful Venetian costumes.
As you move to the back of the store, you will pass by the ‘fire exit’, which is a door that opens right onto the canal. Outside in the courtyard, you will find stacks of old and damaged books used to create a one-of-kind book staircase. At the top, you can look over the wall and watch the local water traffic pass by. The bookshop also has some local cats that like to hang out amongst the shelves.
Though this bookstore is a popular spot for tourists and Instagram influencers, it has seen some hard times in recent months.
In November 2019, the store took a hit when Venice’s highest tide in half a century caused devastating floods throughout the city. Though some of the store’s inventory was spared because of the ingenious storage methods, most of the building’s interior furnishings and books were ruined. Overall, three boatloads of damaged books had to be removed from the shop.
However, as news of the damage spread, volunteers arrived and cleared the space within four days. The store owner’s son, Lino Frizzo, said without the volunteers, the cleanup would have taken months. They even asked for people to donate books instead of cash to help build their inventory back up.
Though the Coronavirus quarantine hit Venice around the time the bookstore was bouncing back, Frizzo and his father are keeping their heads up. They acknowledged the drop in tourism will inventively affect sales, but the pair is hopeful local customers will help keep them afloat for the time being.
In a time when independent bookstores are struggling across the globe, Liberia Acqua Alta keeps moving forward.