Getting there: Alitalia flies nonstop from LAX to Milan; restricted round-trip fares begin at $819. Northwest, United, Continental, Delta, American and Lufthansa fly there with a change of planes. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $833. From Milan there is frequent bus and rail service to Baveno.
Group tours: One-week tours based in Baveno are available through AHI International Corp., 6400 Shafer Court, Rosemont, IL 60018, telephone (888) 384-7001, fax (847) 318-5000, Internet http://www.ahitravel.com, for about $2,500 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Los Angeles. I booked this tour through UCLA Alumni Travel, James West Alumni Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1397; tel. (310) 206-0613, Internet http://www.uclalumni.net/TravelAndRec/Travel/Catalog2002/06ItalianLakes.cfm. Next available tour dates are June 24 through July 2, for $2,595 per person including air fare.
See a travel agent for other tours to the Lakes District.
Where to stay: We stayed at the Lido Palace Hotel, 30 Strada Statale del Sempione, Baveno; tel. 011-39-0323-924- 444, fax 011-39-0323-924- 744, Internet http://www.lidopalace.com, for $130 a night in August, double occupancy. Rates fell to $87 this month.
Grand Hotel Dino, 20 Via Garibaldi, Baveno; tel. 011-39-0323-922-201, fax 011-39-0323-924-515, Internet http://www.zaccherahotels.com. Rates: $170 a night, double, falling to $130 this month. The Dino is the best hotel in town, more modern than the Lido Palace but lacking in character.
Where to eat: Lo Stornello, 35 Via Cavour, Stresa; local tel. 0323-30444. Known for its risotto Milanese and other regional specialties. A candlelight dinner for two with wine, $40.
At the family-friendly Ristorante Posta, 16 Piazza Dante, Baveno, tel. 0323-924-509, a fixed-price three-course dinner with veal or fish, pasta and dessert is $12.
For pizza, try Bar Miralago di Nosotti, Via Lungo Lago, Isola Pescatori. Pizza and wine lunch in the open on Lake Maggiore is $7 for two.
For gelato: For the best in Baveno, Ristorante Bar Miralago, a block north of the ferry landing.
In Como, Gelateria Ceccato on Via Lungo Lago Trieste, next to the Palace Hotel Lake Como, has good vanilla gelato with cherries, cherry syrup and whipped cream, $4.
For more information: Italian Government Tourist Office, 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, L.A., CA 90025; tel. (310) 820-1898, http://www.regione.piemonte.it/lingue/english/turismo/turism/laghi.htm.