The idea of the festival, born in 1953 with the contribution of the Provincial Tourist Board of Salerno (then chaired by Girolamo Bottiglieri), is due to Paolo Caruso, who, in the wake of previous musical events dedicated to Richard Wagner, thought at an event specially designed for lovers of the German composer's music. The first edition, held in two evenings with the music of the San Carlo Theater Orchestra in Naples, under the direction of Hermann Scherchen and William Steinberg, fell, among other things, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Wagner's death.
Since 2003, the Ravello Foundation has been involved in the creation of the Ravello Festival; also in the same year the so-called leitmotiv was introduced, that is the central theme around which all the events of the festival revolve.
During the various editions, many international orchestras performed at the festival, including the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Münchner Philharmoniker, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra of the Kirov Theater of St. Petersburg, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the 'RAI National Symphony Orchestra, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra, the Orchester national de France and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Contrary to what is said, Wagner never stayed in Ravello; he stayed in Naples for a few months and at that time took a three-day trip to Amalfi. During one afternoon he went up to Ravello where he stayed for about three hours, visited Villa Rufolo, drank a lemonade, and was surprised to find Klingsor's garden inside the villa as he had imagined it and whose music he had already written.
On March 19, 2014, the official newspaper of the Ravello Festival was registered at the Court of Salerno: the Ravello Magazine.