The son of Italy's last king has once again made an impassioned appeal to be allowed back into his country of birth. This time he stands a chance even though male heirs of the House of Savoy have been banned from Italy since the monarchy was abolished in 1946.

For years, Prince Vittorio Emanuele, the son of Italy's last king, has been urging post-war Italian governments to overturn a constitutional order that bans all male descendants of the former royal family from entering Italy.

The first real possibility that the prince could return came when the center-right government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took power last spring. But after months of waiting, Vittorio Emanuele is losing hope. Now living in Switzerland, he says he is tired of promises that are broken.

The last King of Italy, Umberto II, was deposed after World War II. Prince Vittorio Emanuele was just a child when the family was banished from Italy. Since then, he has lived with his family in exile in Geneva.

Vittorio Emanuele claims Italy's ban on allowing male members of the former royal family is a violation of human rights. In September he took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

But a hearing on the matter scheduled for next week has been postponed at the request of the Italian government.

This may, however, be good news for the House of Savoy. A close aide of the prime minister, Gianni Letta, said this weekend that the problem of Italy's former royal family has not been forgotten. He said that a bill to change the relevant clause in the Italian constitution is on parliament's agenda for January 29.

If approved, it would clear the way for Vittorio Emanuele's return - at last - to Italy.