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Discover the best spots in Venice, Italy for book lovers to visit. This city of canals has been both a setting for famous books and a haven for famous writers for hundreds of years. Learn about the top places there that you don’t want to miss, and get reading recommendations along the way. You’ll be able to travel like a literary expert with these tips. So, let’s get literary!

view of gondolas and canals in venice italy.

5 Must-Visit Places in Venice, Italy for Book Lovers

  1. Hotel Danieli
  2. Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop
  3. Harry’s Bar
  4. St. Mark’s Square
  5. Caffe Florian

About Venice, Italy and Its Literary Influences

me in st marks square venice italy.

Venice, Italy is quintessential Europe — the city of canals, and the former powerhouse of Mediterranean trade. It feels other-worldly to visit there!

Venice has been a popular book setting since Shakespeare, and literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain famously visited it.

Venice is a travel hub in light of its airport, train station and ports for cruise ships. For these reasons, Venice can feel very crowded and touristy, particularly since it was never meant to accommodate so many people all at once.

It was extremely crowded when we were there in July, which negatively impacted our experience to some degree, but I’ve heard other visitors say the exact opposite for other times of the year.

Luckily, though, you can take any number of routes through its maze-like “streets” to let Venice more quietly come to you and provide endless literary and travel inspiration. It’s all part of the mystique!

New to international travel? Check out these tips for traveling to Europe for the first time.

Why You Should Visit These Literary Venitian Gems

1 – Hotel Danieli

view of hotel danieli in venice italy from the canals.
interior staircases and hallways inside hotel danieli.

Riva degli Schiavoni, 4196, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy

Our travel agent chose the historically beautiful and well-located Hotel Danieli (next to Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square) for us. This was a stroke of luck in many ways.

First, being there—a former private palace—truly makes you feel like you stepped back in time, which was such a treat.

More importantly for book lovers, though, it’s been frequented by such literary heavyweights as George Sand, Alfred Musset, Marcel Proust, Theodore Dreiser, and Mark Twain.

And, when I later picked up the book Jackie and Maria (historical fiction about Jackie O) and it began there, I actually screamed! It turns out it’s also beloved by celebrities and royalty too.

There’s a rooftop bar overlooking the canals there, which is a real hidden gem. Unfortunately, we could not access it during our time there, but we recommended it to an acquaintance, and she said visiting it was the best moment of her entire trip to Italy.


2 – Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop

book staircase at libreria acqua alta bookshop.

C. Longa Santa Maria Formosa, 5176b, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy

Libreria Acqua Alta Bookshop has got to be one of the most unique bookstores in the world. It uniquely utilizes gondolas, canoes, and bathtubs as bookshelves to protect its collection from frequent floods. This setup also creates charm and intrigue for visitors.

But wait, there’s more! The quaint aesthetic is further enhanced by its bookstore cats. Last, but definitely not least, it houses a staircase made of old books and views of the canals. It makes you do a double-take!


3 – Harry’s Bar

harry's bar in venice italy.

Calle Vallaresso, 1323, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Harry’s Bar is not just a popular bar in Venice. It’s also a national landmark that’s famously served literary “regulars” like Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote, as well as Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, Sinclair Lewis, and Somerset Maugham.

There’s no question about what to order there — a peach bellini, which the owner invented.


4 – St. Mark’s Square

st. marks square in venice italy at night.

P.za San Marco, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy

St. Mark’s Square is the main meeting place in Venice, and it’s right around the corner from Hotel Danieli. It houses the historic St. Mark’s Basilica, an architectural powerhouse dating back to the 11th Century, and the Clock Tower.

Its central connection to the city means that it appears in many, if not most, books set in Venice. I most recently read about it in The Guncle Abroad. I also can’t think about it without thinking of The Talented Mr. Ripley!

A visit to Venice is simply not complete without a walk through St. Mark’s Square. Marvel at the architecture as you sip a cappuccino and listen to the live cafe orchestra, as so many other famed writers did (more on that below).

Doing so was the peak of European relaxation and one of my favorite experiences in Italy, both during the day AND at night. (Yes, you should go twice.) It’s a feast for all of your senses, and I also can’t imagine a better reading spot in Venice.


5 – Caffe Florian

exterior of caffe florian in venice italy.

P.za San Marco, 57, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy

Caffe Florian sits in the heart of St. Mark’s Square. This “oldest cafe in the world,” dating back to 1720, truly feels that way when you step inside, yet it also exudes a very luxurious and ornate vintage aesthetic, from its plush red seating to its gilded accents. It almost feels like a movie set.

Over time, it’s been visited by such important writers as Lord Byron, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Charles Dickens.

I simply can’t imagine them not feeling inspired there. As mentioned, my favorite thing to do there was head to its outdoor seating and simply to sit, look, and listen. You get a very “ex-pat writer in Europe” feel in doing so.

10 Best Books Set in Venice, Italy

If you want to pair your Venetian excursions with books set there, here are my top 10 picks, a few of which I’ve already mentioned above.

VENICE BOOKS

  1. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
  2. Dark Tides by Phillipa Gregory
  3. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  4. The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowley
  5. A Haunting in Venice by Agatha Christie
  6. Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul
  7. A Merchant in Venice by William Shakespeare
  8. Othello by William Shakespeare
  9. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  10. The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

Read More: Books Set in Italy | Books Set in Florence, Italy

More Venice Travel Tips

  • You can just hop in a gondola at any time.
  • We ate at Ristorante Antica Sacrestia and loved its “secret” feel. This restaurant also boasts a famous clientele including writers.
  • Venetian wine is my favorite in all of Italy. It’s smooth and luxurious. Try a glass of Amarone!
  • Other hot spots to visit include Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, and The Accademia.

Sources

Besides my personal experiences in Venice, Italy, I relied on countless sources, from blogs to social media videos and beyond. Some of my favorite resources for Venice, Italy, are these books:

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to sit and read in Venice?

The best place to sit and read in Venice is the famed St. Mark’s Square. There, you can marvel at the gilded architecture as you sip a cappuccino and listen to the live cafe orchestra, as so many other famed writers did.

What book is set in Venice?

A few of the most popular books set in Venice, Italy, are A Merchant in Venice by William Shakespeare, Othello by William Shakespeare, and The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.

Conclusion

Venice, Italy—the city of canals—is an excellent place for tourists, but especially book lovers! You can visit the settings for books and the actual places some of the most famous authors of all time visited.

You can find everything mentioned in this post on this map:

My top pick from this list is Hotel Danieli, which is vintage, luxurious, centrally located, AND very literary.

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