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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Libreria Acqua Alta - 阿誇阿爾塔圖書館

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Calle Longa S. Maria Formosa, 5176/b, 30122 Castello, Venezia VE, Italy

My teacher Florine Houee at the bookstore...

Bookstores are quite a popular theme amongst photographers and in Venice, we have the Libreria Acqua Alta (translated as “Book Store of High Water"). Listed as one of the world's top 10 most beautiful bookstores, it is also frequently ranked as being number 1. Famous photographers such as Steve McCurry and Jim Zuckerman have photographed here.

Founded in 2004 by Luigi Frizzo and located at the edge of Venice’s Castello sestiere, the place is everything you can imagine to find in a fairy tale-like medieval city. It has become an icon in its own right, popular amongst the locals and tourists. Dark, slightly moist, cramped and narrow, messy with plenty of vintage stuff but full of character. Both the rooms are stacked to the ceiling with books, magazines, maps and souvenirs. To deal with the frequent flooding or high water events in Venice, the owners have placed many of their books inside bathtubs, waterproof bins, and in the central room, an actual gondola. The small courtyard at the back has a staircase made fully of books. The emergency fire exit leads directly to the canal. There is a small chair on the porch just next to the fire exit - a place where I did many of my iconic shots. But this little corner is really quite small and unless both the model and the photographer are of very small build and you have an ultra wide-angled lens, I dun suggest anyone trying for photos at this particular spot because there is a high risk of falling into the canal next to it.

This is also the place where my photography teacher Florine Houee often holds her photo lessons for me. Florine is a veteran Venetian Mask costumer from France and my second photography teacher. She has been coming to Venice every year during Carnevale for more than 20 years now. For Florine, everything has to be perfect - the lighting, the pose, the location, the costumes, the color combination, the mood...And yes, Florine inspects every photo after a few clicks and if they are not good, I get to do them all over again. And this is why I get to become a pro in such a short period of time. Over the years, I have a small collection of photos at this iconic place, all taken during the Venice Carnevale. We want to create an enchanted collection of fairy tales within this whimsical charm of Venice amidst shelves of books because we all know that during Carnevale especially, the combination of the Venetian Masks with their outrageous costumes truly add to the magical atmosphere of this place.

One of the bookstore owners sharing a friendly moment with famous Venetian Mask costumer Isabelle Rombi and Popular Italian costumer Gianluigi pays homage to the bookstore with his fancy costume creation during the Venice Carnevale in 2019....

A picture from the bookstore features as the cover for one of my photo books Fairy Tales in Venice...

The place is often crowded with tourists and they do not charge an entrance fee. They are open daily from 9am to 8pm. The place has recently also become an Instagram landmark in our very social media crazed times.

If you are going to stop by and take photos, do consider buying something small as well in order to ensure this one-of-a-kind bookstore stays open for a long time more.

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