The library as a metaphor for the city
If we consider a bookshop as "a place for the exhibition and sale of books to the public" then we can say with certainty that the bizarre Acqua Alta Bookshop in Venice is not a bookshop. Not a conventional one at least, since it is true that it exhibits tons of books and also deals with retail sales. But then what exactly is it about?
If we consider a bookshop exclusively as "a place for the exhibition and sale of books to the public" then we can say with certainty that the bizarre Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice does not fall into this category. Not in its conventional sense of the term at least, given the ton of books on display and the retail service it deals with.
But then what exactly is it about?
The Acqua Alta Bookshop is a microcosm of books and emotions that should be experienced exactly as a metaphor for the whole city.
Yes, because the idea of its creator Luigi Frizzo, Vicenza-born but Venetian by adoption, was to be able to tell the story of the city he loves in a completely unique way, through books and their incredible location: a sort of accumulation of pages and feelings.
And so in 2004 this labyrinth of books was born, embodying the inextricable maze of calle and callette that makes up Venice, often invaded by the water of the canal that, when it becomes high, occupies all the spaces: a seemingly meaningless chaos, like the city streets, but which finds its logic in the creativity and the need to adapt that living in such a peculiar territory is called. The space is thus shared with gondolas and small boats, and cats resting comfortably on high piles of books: it is an interior that simulates an exterior, or an exterior that becomes an interior because of Luigi's genius, following a the one between private and public space, that has always been at the basis of the growth of the lagoon city. And then there are the books, millions of pages written, many of them about Venice, which refer to centuries of history and wink at the future.
It is no coincidence that the English broadcaster BBC has included the Acqua Alta Bookshop among the 10 most beautiful bookshops in the world.
Visit to believe!
Stacks of books like a living architecture that said no to technology
The Libreria Acqua Alta is accessed from a quiet street near Campo Santa Maria Formosa. A small courtyard and a narrow door will lead you to this unique place of books stacked on top of each other and displayed in such a way as to create a living, spontaneous and mobile architecture. The large shelves have a typological order and great space is given to the history of the city, its great artistic, literary and musical tradition. In those ravines you can breathe the taste of the lagoon mixed with that particular smell of freedom typical of places where culture is celebrated.
But the shelves are not the most suitable solution for a city that lives inside the water that often takes over. So the volumes are also placed in the large gondola that dominates the central room with its bulk, or in the bathtub or in the other small boats: a representation of the city but above all a brilliant way to protect the books and the creative sign to characterize this small, exclusive world. But Luigi's eclectic spirit certainly didn't stop there: in the back of the room a small courtyard with high walls separates the bookcase from the canal. How to allow visitors to look out over the city and enjoy a splendid view of the city? And so stacks of books are arranged to form a staircase, allowing visitors to climb up and stretch their gaze beyond the walls, a metaphor for culture that, when walked through, helps to overcome barriers, closed and high, and free their minds towards new horizons. Don't worry, no book has been mistreated for this, but they are volumes destined to be pulled down because they are outdated: Luigi has only implemented a wonderful creative recycling.
And then there's the emergency exit, that open door on the edge of the canal where there is space for a sofa and armchairs: a view of the water and the tranquility that is often disconnected from some areas of the city. The ideal place to open a book and immerse yourself in reading, freeing your mind and imagination.
City and bookshop "live" and "breathe" together, a big maternal embrace.
You may be wondering how to get together in such a seemingly meaninglessly arranged mass of books. Well, the answer is Luigi, the real soul of the bookshop: a big man with a tender smile and infinite availability who knows all the over 100 thousand volumes, new and used, and their location, to the point of leaving out the door the technological devils and digital catalogues, a living memory not only of his books, but of the history of the city of yesterday and today, which he always shares with love and affability.
A chat with Luigi will certainly enrich you.
And Luigi's heart allowed a small colony of cats to spontaneously decide to live here. This probably happens because who lives in the culture includes and does not exclude, welcomes without being intrusive, gives affection, harmony and peace without demanding anything in return. In short, this makes Acqua Alta a place suitable for dreamers, lovers of books and culture and ideal for cats and cat lovers.
It is no exaggeration to say that Acqua Alta is one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world because it perfectly reflects the image of one of the most extraordinary cities on earth, culturally alive and artistically immortal. A very special place to know when you choose to visit Venice, both if you want to buy books, but also to see the city from a very original point of view and immerse yourself in an environment different from the usual tourist clichés.
The Acqua Alta Bookshop is in Calle Larga Santa Maria Formosa 5176/B, Sestiere di Castello.
It is open every day from 9:00 to 20:00.