Canfora studied piano at an early age, then studied oboe at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milano. During the Second World War, he played several concerts with his group in Trieste. After the war, he moved to Torino and became conductor of the Castellino Danze Orchestra.
Besides having composed scores for television programs and films, Canfora is known for his work in pop music, particularly for his collaboration with Mina, for whom he composed the songs Brava and Sono come tu mi vuoi. He also composed songs for Rita Pavone, Ornella Vanoni, Shirley Bassey, and the Kessler Twins.
Canfora was the conductor for the Sanremo Music Festival in 1961.