Most Asians grow up being told not to step on books. But Italian bookstore owner Luigi Frizzo actually invites people to walk on his books.

In the back of a small, quaintly cramped Venice bookstore called Libreria Acqua Alta (Bookshop of High Water), Frizzo has built “bookstairs”. Comprising massive and sturdy old encyclopaedias arranged in stacks to form the risers, the bookstairs lead to the top of the shop where visitors can joy the view of passing boats and gondolas on a quiet canal.

“I wanted to make people go up to see the view because the view of the canal is nice,” says Frizzo, 76.

But the unusual staircase isn’t the only thing interesting about this bookshop, which is mentioned in travel books and destination guides.

Frizzo with his shop assistant, Diana Zanda.

The unique way in which Frizzo displays the books is also quite the draw: Since the shop is located in a notoriously flood-prone city – its name is Bookshop of High Water, after all – he sensibly stacks his products in things that float, like bathtubs, waterproof containers, and even a full-size gondola.

Libreria Acqua Alta keeps some of its books in a gondola to prevent them from getting wet during the frequent floods.

When the water rises, the books rise along, snug in their floating containers.

He got into the business when he fell in love – with a woman who owned a bookshop, and also with the works of an author, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Of the Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and architect Frizzo says: “I love to let the people know who Rudoph Steiner is and I want to sell his books. So that’s the push to make me open a bookshop. Like a mission.”

The store attracts locals as well as foreign tourists.

The now-divorced Frizzo claims there are more than 100,000 books in the 15-year-old shop, both new and old, some in Italian, others in English, and even French.

There are also postcards, comics, and an erotica section.

Welcoming visitors

And, of course, Libreria Acqua Alta has that vital accessory all bookshops need: There’s a cat that hangs around the counter to welcome visitors.


Libreria Acqua Alta is located at Campiello del Tintor, 30122 Venice, Italy. It’s open from 9am to 8pm daily; +39-041-296 0841.