Tuesday, 30 April 2013
The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World
"The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World" is the claim made by Libreria Acqua Alta in the Castello district of Venice, and the proud boast might just be true. One of the joys of Venice is that, when walking through the labyrinth of passageways, you never quite know what you will find, and I came across this bookshop quite by chance when roaming through the city the day before my Orient Express trip.
The entrance may not seem anything special, but once inside, the atmosphere is terrific, and not really like that of any other bookshop I've visited - and believe me, I've visited plenty!. Books are crammed all over the place, and the decor is idiosyncratic and charming. At the back of the shop is a small courtyard which commands a lovely view of a canal - if you climb a staircase made of books, that is...
Not surprisingly, the shop holds a large stock of mysteries by Donna Leon, whose books set in Venice gain from the close knowledge of the city that she has gained through living there. I've read a few of her books, and this trip made me want to return to them. I've never met her, but if I did, I'd want to ask her about the nature of living in Venice when one is not a local. For an author, living in Venice must be quite an extraordinary experience, and I imagine that many writers who have visited the city have been inspired to write stories set there.
I vividly remember the two incidents on a trip to Venice a few years ago that prompted me to writer "The Bookbinder's Apprentice". The first was when I came across a bookbinder's shop, quite by chance. The other was when I spent an hour or so in a tranquil square, mapping out the story in my mind. It's a story that's been very lucky for me, and one more reason why I'm so fond of Venice..