Visiting the Eternal City in both the height of high season and the heat of summer provides a crash course in Rome 101. Faced with long lines, wall-to-wall people, and very little shade while touring the city’s meticulously preserved marvels, I learned quickly what to do, what not to do, and how to do it.

Now, after spending half of summer 2015 exploring the ancient metropolis and savoring one-too-many conos of gelato, I’m here to tell you how to see Italy’s capital like a pro.

1. Get a lay of the land. Start with a hop-on hop-off panoramic bus tour to get a sense of where each major historic site is situated from your Rome hotel.

2. Pre-book VIP-style tours. When you’re booking activities ahead of time, look for buzzwords such as “skip the line,” “VIP,” or “small group.” These descriptors will ensure an elevated experience in a sea of tours.  

3. Stop frequently for gelato. During my Italian immersion, I stopped for the sweet treat twice daily. It kept me cool. When there’s a gelateria every 10 steps, and it’s so hot you wish you could wear your bathing suit in the streets, it’s near impossible to resist.

What are your tips for seeing Rome like a pro?