The oldest document that testifies to the existence of Carenno dates back to 985 AD and it is a parchment, kept in the Archives of Bergamo, containing an act of donation by a priest, Andrea, who qualifies as “son of the deceased Giovanni da Carenno”. It is probable that the first inhabited settlements in the town date back to around the 10th century AD and initially they concentrated in the district of Ripamonte, at the foot of Mount Pertus.
In the Bergamo statutes of 1331 it appears that Carenno was part of the territory of the Communitas Vallis Sancti Martini, which became an autonomous administrative unit, with its own Special Vicar, starting from 1362. At that time the Community of Val San Martino was subject to the Visconti lordship of Milan: we remember in particular the cruel and authoritarian figure of Bernabò Visconti, who had to face with the repression some revolts that broke out in the territory of the San Martino Valley, especially fomented by the Guelphs, where a leading role was played by the Rota di Carenno family.
The Rota were for several centuries the most important family of Carenno. Coming from the Imagna Valley, the family settled in its main lineage in Carenno since the early 12th century. They played a leading role not only in civil and military life, but also in economic life: as wool traders, they undertook journeys to many parts of Europe, as also symbolically testified by the cartwheel depicted on the family crest. Particularly famous was Tuzzano Rota, an ally of the Venetian Republic, in the war of expansion that ended with the Treaty of Lodi in 1454 and which sanctioned the passage of the territory of Val San Martino, as well as of all the Bergamo area, under Venetian rule.
Carenno was severely affected by the plague epidemic, of Manzoni’s memory, which spread in 1629-30. The victims were 115 out of 475 inhabitants. The corpses of the plague victims were collected at the foot of Mount Pertus, where a small chapel dating back to the 14th century probably existed, where an ossuary was built. On it, in 1745, the Oratory of San Domenico was built, better known as “Chiesina dei Morti”: the dead of the plague.
In the early 1800s the Venetian rule ended following the invasion of French troops commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte and Carenno became part of the Cisalpine Republic, later transformed into the Kingdom of Italy. The ancient community of the valley is suppressed. Its territory, mostly on a slope, has many stretches of pasture and woodland. The mainly agricultural economy brings the phenomenon of the emigration of the masons, particularly appreciated for the technical ability abroad, above all towards Switzerland and France. The Museum of Masons is now dedicated to the history and techniques of the Carni masons.
In the early twentieth century, thanks to the carriage way, the first tourist influx into the country also began, especially given by the middle bourgeoisie of Milan and Brianza, characterized by the presence of various holiday homes, which however did not distort the beauty of the landscape and the surrounding environment.
Still in Carenno scagliolo maize is cultivated, an ancient polenta variety known for its high quality and which requires few water resources, so it is suitable for the most arid areas.