QUESTION: Where can I go gold panning in the United States?

ANSWER: The Gold Prospectors Association of America (Post Office Box 507, Bonsall, Calif. 92003; 619-728-6620) is a good source for information on how and where to pan for gold.Members ($25 a year to join and $15 for subsequent years) get a bimonthly magazine on gold prospecting. The association also publishes an annual guide that lists areas where members have claims.

In these places, other members can pan for gold without a permit and keep what they find. These areas include not only claims in the West, but also in national forests in the East (including the Carolinas and Vermont and New Hampshire) and the Midwest (Michigan prominently).

The guide, sold only to members, is $50, which includes accident insurance that protects panners and the holders of claims.

The association runs gold prospecting camps in Alaska, California and Oregon.

Between early July and mid-August there are weeklong outings at a camp at the confluence of the Bering Sea and the Cripple River, 12 miles west of Nome, Alaska. For $1,850, participants get round-trip air fare from most United States cities, accommodations in cabins, meals, ground transportation and instruction. Additional weeks are $750.

Participants equally divide the gold that is found, which rarely pays for the trip, an association official said. There are weekend outings, for $100 a member, at association camps in Burnt River, Ore., just south of Baker, in the eastern part of the state and a camp two and a half hours northeast of Los Angeles in the high desert.

There are several places that provide an opportunity to pan for gold for a few minutes or hours. In El Dorado County, Calif., where word of discovery of the precious metal started the Gold Rush of 1849, Gold Country Prospecting (3119 Turner Street, Placerville, Calif. 95667; 916-622-2484) offers three-hour outings on local rivers and creeks.

Participants get pans and sluice boxes and instruction on using them. The cost is $40 for an adult and $20 for children aged 7 to 12; those younger than 7 take part free.

There are several old gold mining sites in Alaska that offer tours that includie a chance to pan for gold, generally from May through September.

At Crow Creek Mine (907-278-8060), on New Seward Highway in Chugach National Forest, about 45 miles south of Anchorage, visitors are given a demonstration and a pan and shovel; the cost is $5; admission to the area without panning is $3.

The Old F.E. Co. Gold Camp (907-389-2414), in Chatanika, 27 miles north of Fairbanks on Old Steese Highway, offers free gold panning.

At Gold Dredge No. 8 (907-457-6058), at 9 Mile Old Steese Highway, nine miles from Fairbanks, the admission price of $8 includes an opportunity to pan for gold. Children under 8 and younger are admitted free.

Little El Dorado Gold Camp (907-479-7613), at 1.3 Mile Elliot Highway, near Fairbanks, charges $20 admission; $15 for children up to age 12. Included are a ride on a narrow-gauge train, a tour of old and new mining operations, and gold pan offers a 90-minute tour in which participants view the old Alaska Juneau Mine and learn to pan in a creek two or three miles away. The cost is $24; $16 for those 12 and younger.

Alaskan Prospectors (504 College Road, Fairbanks; 907-452-7398), which sells gold panning supplies, is a good source of information on panning in Alaska.

QUESTION: Is there a rainy season in Hawaii? I'm thinking of taking a cruise and have heard that it sometimes rains there for a sold week.

ANSWER: There is a rainy season in Hawaii, with November, December, January and March getting the heaviest rainfall. But the rain there mainly falls in the form of daytime shower that may last a half hour or so, often while the sun continues to shine. Cruise lines report that they sail all year to Hawaii and that at sea it rarely rains for a whole day and practically never for a whole week.

Rainfall figures are gathered on land, rather than sea. Honolulu, on the southeast coast of Oahu and thus shielded from the trade winds, is relatively dry. It rains an average of 11 to 15 days a month there all year, with December and January each the wettest months.

QUESTION: In which Neapolitan museum or church is that famous sculpture on which a veil covering the body is incredibly carved in marble?

ANSWER: The sculpture you seek is most likely the "Veiled Christ" completed in 1573 by Giuseppe Sammartino.

The statue is in the Chapel of San Severo at 19 Via De Sanctis, which was reopened in June after two years' renovation. How the sculptor created the remarkable gossamer effect of the veil is a mystery.

Some say he applied chemicals or a molten substance to the marble, while others say he used only his deep knowledge of the stone. The chapel (telephone 5518470), near Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is closed Wednesday. Admission is $2.60.

QUESTION: How does one make seat reservations for the Palio in Siena, Italy, next summer?

ANSWER: The Palio, a spectacular horse race around the Piazza del Campo, was first run in 1656. It is now held every July 2 and Aug. 16 with full Renaissance panoply and is a noisy, dusty and sometimes frightening event.

But it is a still a unique sight, a genuine passion for the local people, not at all a staged event for tourists.

Your one slim chance to obtain a ticket is to write about four to five months before the race to the owners of the seats that surround the piazza and the streets that lead into it.

Try one or more of the following: Alfredo Mazzuoli, 15 Piazza del Campo, telephone 577-288876; Dr. Mario Masignani, 63 Via E.S. Piccolomini, 577-287127; Nevio Permuti, 1 Via Montluo, 577-47979; Flavio Paolini, 240 V. le Cavour, 577-41428; Renato Masignani, 47 Via E.S. Piccolomini, no telephone; Romano Mancini, 77 Piazza del Campo, 577-289221; Quercoli, 70 Piazza del Campo, 577-331068.