Venice, why we really haunt used bookstores, and some thoughts on geography

Well, my revival has survived into its second week. This Sunday’s word is one that I only recently learned, despite spending large chunks of my youth in used bookstores precisely because of it. Well, it and the cheap books.

Vellichor: (n) the wistfulness embodied by second hand bookstores. 

The word brought to mind many of the bookstores of my misspent youth, most of whom are now sadly defunct.However, it also reminded me of a bookstore I almost-but-not-quite visited in Venice: the now-relatively-famous Libreria Acqua Alta. Famously resigned to the constant flooding, Acqua Alta keeps its books in bathtubs and a defunct gondola, and has a become a classic book-loving tourist destination in a city that is arguably the Holy Grail of Western tourism.

We love to love Venice, despite itself. Like many of the classic European tourist hotspots, we can picture Venice so clearly before we even get there that the physical presence of the city itself is almost superfluous. We see what we want to see. In that way, at least, Venice still lives up to her reputation as a city of masks.

While I was there, there were times when I believed that the only parts of Venice that can be counted on to be where they ought be were those frequented by tourists. Left unattended, the spider-webbing  of canals and back-alleys that roam between San Marco, the Guggenheim Museum, the train station, shift. They may be were your thickly-hatched map says they are or they may not. In Venice, it seemed, geography was more a matter of timing than of topography.

Then again, I wanted a Venice that was still a mystery, still a dark, dilapidated romance, despite the hordes of tourists in cheap Chinese-made Carnevale masks.Like everyone else, I saw what I wanted to see. Venice did not disapoint.

Opening image from The Post Internazionale





  1. I would so love to visit here!!! How quaint, beautiful, and filled with the warmth of vellichor!

    1. Doesn’t it look lovely? None of these pictures show it, but it also seems to have its fair share of requisite bookstore cats.

      1. Well, you can’t have a used bookstore without bookstore cats! 😉

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