We Italians sometime say "Tutte le strade portano a Roma", which is an idiomatic expression to say that there are many different ways to reach the same goal.

In English, the expression can be translated "All roads lead to Rome".

Among Anglophones, is that expression understandable and currently in use? Or, is it preferable to say New York or London, rather than Rome, to make that expression work ("All roads lead to New York", "All roads lead to London")?

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    Your direct translation is exactly what is used in English. As to London, "you can't get there from here".
    – Mitch
    Jul 22, 2013 at 16:29
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    Personally, I understand All roads lead to Rome as meaning It doesn't matter at all what you do or how you do it - the end result will be the same (i.e. - there are no "incorrect" approaches to even be considered). If I'm just pointing out that several approaches will work (even if in principle there are some others that won't work), I would say There's more than one way to skin a cat Jul 22, 2013 at 18:37

5 Answers 5


"All roads lead to Rome" is a universal saying in English. It would seem strange to say all roads lead to anywhere else.

Go to google.com or any other English version and start typing in "all roads lead to" and it will answer your question :)

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    This expression is used not only in Italian and English, but in many other languages. It is important to note that Rome here does not refer to the modern-day capital of Italy, but rather to the centre of the Roman Empire in days of yore—when you could literally take any road and it would eventually lead you towards Rome at some point or other. Jul 22, 2013 at 14:31
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    Or, rather, to the place that was currently calling itself the head of the Roman Empire. For most of the history of Rome, that place was of course Constantinople. Jul 22, 2013 at 16:59
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    @JohnLawler: 'All roads lead to Constantinople' doesn't have the same ring to it.
    – Mitch
    Jul 22, 2013 at 17:05
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    That's why they called it "Rome". Jul 22, 2013 at 17:26
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    UPDATE: or just type "all roa" :)
    – pulsar
    Dec 14, 2014 at 0:00

The term as you translate is universally understood among English speakers but possibly has a different connotation; it's that "Rome", or whatever it represents in the metaphor, is the center of the entire world. Nothing gets done without going into or through Rome (or its leadership, such as Caesar or even the Pope). If it were to cease to exist, everything would fall into chaos.


The expression is certianly not unknown, at least in the USA. This could be due to the large number of Italian immigrants we got in the late 19th and early 20th Century bringing it with them.

However, in the USA (at least the eastern half) we do have have a similar expression: When you die and go to heaven/hell, you have to go through Atlanta.

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    Southeastern quarter? I've never heard that phrase in Pennsylvania. Jul 22, 2013 at 19:37
  • @DanNeely - Possibly, but I lived in the Philly suburbs for 5 years back in the 90's, and heard it there too.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 22, 2013 at 19:53
  • hmmm, I grew up and live in in the western half of the state. Until fairly recently Pittsburgh was an airline hub; which might have had something to do with keeping the phrase at bay. Jul 22, 2013 at 19:56
  • I've never heard it, living at various times in Kentucky, Ohio, New Jersey (across the river from Philly), and Minnesota. "All roads lead to Rome", however, is quite familiar.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 2, 2016 at 19:37

The phrase "All rivers lead to the sea" is a more culturally (and geographically) generalized version of "All roads lead to Rome."


It is a reference back to the time of the Roman Empire (later Western Roman Empire) and the Romans' amazing ability to build roads such that, were you to get on any Roman road, you would be able to connect from it to other roads that eventually ended in Rome. You would have wanted to do so, for example, if you had needed to move soldiers quickly.

  • 2
    Hi damico, welcome to English SE. Looks lie you have a nice piece of background here, but it is not precisely an answer to the question nor has it any references. If you can improve upon it and it complies better with site policy it will be better received.
    – Bookeater
    Jul 2, 2016 at 19:33

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