Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate from Pennsylvania, may be a solid, right-wing capitalist and Catholic conservative, but he comes from a family that was decidedly left-wing.

According to the Italian weekly magazine Oggi, Santorum’s grandfather and other family members in the old country were die-hard Communists.

Maria Malacarne Santorum, an 83-year-old relative of Santorum who lives in the northern Italian town of Riva del Garda, told Oggi that she can’t fathom how her famous American cousin shifted so far to the right.

“Rick’s grandfather Pietro was a liberal man and he understood right away what was happening in Italy” after Benito Mussolini took power in 1922, Mrs. Santorum told Oggi.

“He was anti-fascist to the extreme, and the political climate in 1925 was stifling, so he left for America. After a few years he returned to Italy with his wife and children, including Aldo, Rick’s father, who passed away late last year. It’s a shame he won’t have the joy to see his son’s success in his bid for the White House.”

Santorum has frequently referred to how his grandfather fled Italy to “escape Fascism” but apparently he left out the fact that the old man was a Marxist.

“In Riva del Garda his grandfather Pietro and uncles were ‘red Communists’ to the core,” wrote Oggi journalist Giuseppe Fumagalli.

“But on the other side of the ocean, it’s like his family here doesn’t exist. Instead he draws crowds as the head of the ultraconservative faction of the Republican party, against divorce, gay marriage, abortion, and immigration.”

Mrs. Santorum also praised her relative, but gave him some advice.

“He would be a great president,” she told Oggi. “But if he wants to make it, he will have to soften some of his positions. To take a stand against homosexuality or to oppose divorce is harmful. Principles count, but in politics one must have the capacity to be open-minded.”

Another male cousin of Santorum, who was unnamed, was particularly aggrieved by the GOP candidate’s political views.

“There are Santorums who would roll over in their graves to hear [Rick’s] rhetoric,” he said.