Keeping a large collection of books in a canal city prone to flooding was always a dangerous idea, which is why Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta (High Water Bookshop) had decided to store its books inside bathtubs, waterproof bins, and even a full-sized gondola.
But to the immense dismay of book lovers around the world, this measure wasn't enough to save the countless books, magazines and other items crammed inside the famous bookstore when the worst floods in half a century hit Venice this week.
“Hundreds” of books were destroyed in the flood on Tuesday night, the shop's owners told Italian literary blog Libreriamo.it on Wednesday.“We call ourselves Acqua Alta (High Water). We expect high water, but not this high,” co-owner Diana reportedly said.
“There is water everywhere. We were not ready for a storm like this. The water has risen 50 cm more than expected,” she added, saying she'd been unable to save many of the books, despite wading through the shop “in rubber boots, on tiptoe” trying to salvage them.
Said by many to be one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, Libreria Acqua Alta has for years attracted visitors from around the world keen to see the whimsical water-themed store for themselves.
The ground-level shop’s “fire escape” is simply a door leading directly out into a canal, and the interior is frequented by neighbourhood cats, who are able to take refuge from rising water levels atop the stacks of books.
Venice suffered another high tide on Thursday morning, as the Italian government said it is declaring a state of emergency in the flood-hit city.