Venice - Libreria Acqua Alta + Trattoria Alla Madonna

The most beautiful bookshop in the world, aka Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.

Here's the thing, Venice is a small island, but I still think its easier to get lost than it is to find your way to a planned destination. Even when you're following a map. Travelling by vaporetto is much simpler. The Grand Canal carves in and around Venice's biggest hits, laying out the city. So it was funny when I stumbled, on foot, onto Libreria Acqua Alta the first time. I just turned a corner and there it was.

Gray bookshop kitty at Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.
The most beautiful bookshop in the world, aka Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.

It was eleven in the morning and I was straight off the plane. Still reeling from lost luggage and a stressful overnight flight, I dropped off my carry-on bag at my guesthouse before heading right out into Venice with nothing but my camera, my backpack (purse still safely housed in my missing suitcase,) and no real plan. Before my trip, a co-worker had sent me a link to a photo of 'the most beautiful bookstore in the world,' so I knew I wanted to visit. But it was pure happenstance that my wanderings led me to the front door.

The name 'Acqua Alta' refers to the seasonal high tides that flood Venice's canals and alleys with a few inches to a few feet of water. The bookshop has a back entrance that opens straight onto a canal, so at times of acqua alta, the water can rise to flood the floor of the shop. Libreria Acqua Alta is a bit of a maze, with open air hallways lined with moldering stacks leading between buildings. Most books are in Italian and very loosely organized, stacked on mismatched shelves and questionably sturdy tables. But staff is friendly and knowledgeable, happy to help you track down a specific book or topic.

Seafood Fritto Misto at Trattoria Alla Madonna in Venice
Con vongole in Venice, at Trattoria Alla Madonna.

That evening I stumbled upon another one of my google mapped locations, Trattoria Alla Madonna. A restaurant near Rialto Market with mixed reviews, it was a familiar name in a sea of random eateries. I was starving, it was a no brainer. It was pretty busy too, usually a positive sign. And my meal was good. I had a plate of fried mixed seafood, the tender calamari was the best of the bunch. Then spaghetti with clams (con vongole) simply dressed with olive oil and perfectly cooked clams. The only downside was the occasional crunch of a broken bit of shell. Certainly not spectacular and perhaps a bit over priced, but I left full and happy. And more than ready for some much needed sleep.

Two days later I was doing some more wandering. After a pizza lunch and a visit to St. Mark's Square, I found myself at the entrance of Libreria Acqua Alta once again. I was happy to stop in to take some more photos and, especially, to visit with the bookstore cats. Home to at least three, the gray cat was my favorite. She was there on my first visit, along with the pure black kitty pictured below, lounging in the sun atop boxes of postcards. On my second trip I did a double take when I looked in the cat basket. It was another black cat, but this one had a white nose and socks, she reminded me of my Lizzie back at home.

An open air hallway lined with books between rooms at Libreria Acqua Alta.
A cat at the most beautiful bookshop in the world, aka Libreria Acqua Alta, in Venice.
An open air hallway lined with books between rooms at Libreria Acqua Alta.
The famous fire exit at Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy.

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