Why Does This Bookstore Keep Its Books in Bathtubs?

Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta keeps its books in bathtubs, gondolas and canoes—and not just for show

A gondola, piled high with books, sits in the middle of the shop. Aubrey Dunnuck
When the water levels rise in Venice, the canal seeps into the shop—but books in bathtubs and canoes are protected. Aubrey Dunnuck
The famous "fire exit" at the bookshop leads straight out to a canal. Aubrey Dunnuck
A wall of books lines the narrow entrance into the bookshop. Aubrey Dunnuck
A friendly cats greets visitors at the Libreria Acqua Alta. Aubrey Dunnuck
The waterlogged and buckled spines of old books lends the bookshop a special Venetian appeal. Aubrey Dunnuck

Perched on a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is impossible to separate from water. Mention of the beautiful city evokes countless aquatic images, from gondolas and vaporetti lumbering down the canals to tiny bridges arching between sidewalks. But in the late winter months, water becomes more than an idyliic backdrop to the city: strong tides in the Adriatic can cause water levels to rise, creating the "Acqua Alta," floods that force the lagoon to pour from the canals onto Venice's sidewalks and into its buildings.

Libreria Acqua Alta, a bookstore in Venice, has come up with a solution to the city's acquatic whims. A mix between "a flea market and a serious library," the bookshop stores their wares (books, new and used, of nearly every genre) stacked along walls and piled in gondolas and bathtubs. The shop features a famous fire exit, which leads visitors to the back of the store and toe-to-toe with the canal. When the canal rises, the store floods with inches of water—but the books remain preserved, thanks to their special storage spaces. 

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"It feels like the shop has been there forever. Books are piled anywhere and everywhere. There's a re-purposed gondola filled with books in one section. Stacks line the open air walkways between rooms, books waterlogged with buckled spines, but charming still," said Aubrey Dunnuck, photographer and author of the blog eat.reapeat, who visited the shop twice on a trip to Venice. "Best of all is the 'Fire Exit' that opens directly onto a canal at the back of the shop."

The flooding on its way into the bookshop #socool #lovedit #bookshop #libreriaacquaalta #venice

The bookstore also offers visitors a different view of the canals, from a staircase made of books. 

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But the books and bathtubs aren't the only reason to visit the bookshop, which calls itself "The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World." Visitors can also marvel at cats, which have taken residence in the shop (and, according to tourist reviews, are very friendly).

Libreria Acqua Alta, Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa, 5176; Sestiere of Castello; +39 041 296 0841

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