Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Italy. This section will give you a guide to all the best spots for book lovers in Venice.

Venice is not just an idyllic destination for tourists, but also a great place to visit for book lovers. Venice is famous for its charming canals, beautiful architecture, and delicious food. But did you know that it’s also home to some of the world’s most stunning libraries?

Back in the 15th century, Venice was at the forefront of printing, producing more books then anywhere else in the world. Today it is still a book lovers paradise.

Where to find the best bookshops in Venice

There are not many independent bookstores left thanks to large chain stores, but there are still some standing and they are well worth a visit.

Libreria MarcoPolo

Libreria MarcoPolo (Santa Margherita)
Campo Santa Margherita, Dosodouro 2899
Monday-Saturday : 10am-1.30pm / 2.30pm-8pm
Sunday & Holidays : 11am-1.30pm / 2.30pm – 7pm

Libreria MarcoPolo (Giudecca)
Turn left at the Palanca Vaporeto stop, Giudecca 282
Tuesday-Saturday : 3pm-7pm
Monday, Sunday & Holidays : Closed

MarcoPolo is an independent bookstore with two locations in Venice. You will find best sellers and mainstream publications, along with a great selection of independent publications, rare books and even second-hand novels. There are also books in English and other languages. MarcoPolo also has meetings, readings and other literary events. Follow their Instagram account for the latest information. 

Libreria Aqua Alta

Libreria Acqua Alta
Calle Longa Santa Formosa, 5176b, 30122
Monday – Sunday : 9am-8pm

This is not your average bookshop! Libreria Acqua Alta is named for the high waters that regularly flood Venice (and this bookstore), but that does not stop this shop from naming itself “the most beautiful bookshop in the world”. Walk in and find yourself wandering through sculptures made of books, bathtubs and venetian boats filled with books and cats (real ones), and an incredible courtyard that looks like it belongs in a fantasy novel. Check out their Instagram if you don’t believe me!

Libreria Bertoni Venezia

Libreria Bertoni Venezia
Calle de la Mandola, San Marco 3637b, 30124
Monday – Saturday : 9am-1pm / 3pm-7.30pm

For three generations, Libreria Bertoni has been run by the same family and is known for its vast collection of books specialising in art, architecture, photography, history and culture. You will also find a decent selection of out-of-print books and exhibition catalogues.

Inside the Libreria Acqua Alta
Inside the Libreria Acqua Alta (Image by Mirko Bozzato from Pixabay)

Visit the local libraries

I usually make a point of finding out where the local libraries are in many of the cities I visit (especially in Europe), and its not for the reason you might think… local libraries tend to have public restrooms, water fountains and computers with internet access. But this is not the reason why I am recommending visiting the libraries in Venice! 

Here are two that should definitely be on your must-see list:

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Piazzetta San Marco n.7 (entrance from Museo Correr)
Monday – Friday : 8.20am-7pm
Saturday, 24th December & 31st December : 8.20am – 1.30pm

The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was founded in 1537 and currently houses over 750,000 volumes. Designed by architect Jacopo Sansovino, the library was praised as the ‘finest building since antiquity’ by Andrea Palladio.

The absolute highlight to see here is the birds-eye view map of Venice created by Fra Mauro, which sits at the top of the great staircase. The map dates back to 1500 and was constructed from six woodcut murals which displays in intricate details every building, canal and campo in Venice at the time. There are also two lovely ceiling paintings by Paolo Veronese in the salon, and works by Titian.

Fondazione Querini Stampalia

Fondazione Querini Stampalia
Campo Santa Maria Formosa
Fondazione : Tuesday – Sunday : 10am-6pm
Library : Tuesday – Saturday : 10am-9pm, Sundays : 10am-7pm

The impressive Palazzo Querini Stampalia was commissioned in the 16th century by the Querini Family. The family of art aficionados filled the Palazzo with incredible works of art, including paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Giambattista and Tiepolo.

Sadly, however the family line ended in 1868. The last surviving member bequeathed the Palazzo and all its contents to their namesake foundation – Fondazione Querini Stampalia. The foundation turned the ground floor into a public library with over 200,000 books, newspapers and magazines.  Staying a while or simply want to explore at your own pace? Bring photo ID and the staff will issue you a reader’s card.

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Photo by: manuel pagani - Mm4mm, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Literary Festivals in Venice

There are two main literary festivals to watch out for in Venice and the Veneto region, and both draw massive crowds. They are:

Incroci di Civiltà

The Incroci di Civiltà (crossroads of civilisations) was first organised in 2008 by Venice’s Ca’Foscari University and has since become a yearly event.

Usually held in the first week of April over three days, this year due to the ongoing pandemic, it is scheduled for 3-6 November 2021.

The Incroci di Civiltà includes a book fair, public talks by international authors and cultural projects aimed at getting people exploring Venice to celebrate both the written and verbal word. One of the highlights of this event is that some sites normally closed to anyone except academics, are opened up to the public – such as Aula Baratto in Ca’ Foscari, Ca’ Bernardo, Ca’ Dolfin, and the Auditorium in the church of Santa Margherita.

Shakespeare Week

Meanwhile, in April every year, Verona celebrates all things Shakespeare with The Shakespearean Culture Festival (commonly known as Shakespeare Week). While it could be argued that this is not quite a literary festival, it does celebrate all things Shakespeare. There are theatre and Opera recreations of Shakespeare’s works in the incredible Verona Arena. If you enjoy theatre or opera, then seeing a performance in the outdoor Verona Arena is an absolute must-do.

Verona Arena (Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Famous Writers

Venice has drawn writers and artists to its islands for centuries, and during its golden age, everyone of note made a point of visiting this incredible city.

By no means a complete list, some of the famous names include:

Casanova – famous (or infamous) for his sexual exploits, Casanova wrote his memoir Story of my life (1898) in Venice. You can also visit the Casanova Museum.

Lord Byron – would visit Venice frequently for inspiration

Marco Polo – was born around to a merchant family in Venice, he spent two decades working for Kublai Khan (ruler of Mongolia). After years travelling across Asia and Europe, he eventually returned to Venice. His biography and travelogue ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ tells of some of his exploits.

Carlo Goldoni – a famous Italian playwright who was active during the 1700s, one of Goldoni’s best-known works is the comedic play Servant of two masters. However, Goldoni wrote dozens of plays, operas, poetry and books.

Contemporary Writers

Venice still produces local writers today, perhaps the most famous contemporary author is Tiziano Scarpa who wrote Venice is a Fish, a travelogue/memoir about the Serenissima. Scarpa also wrote the award winning Stabat Mater, which tells the story of an orphan girl who learns the violin under Antonio Vivaldi.

Another author is Enrico Palandri, among his more well-known works are Ages Apart and The Other Evening.

If you are interested in books set in Venice, then have a look at my blog post 18 Great Books Set in Venice for inspiration.



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A Book Lover's guide to Venice

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