If Rome represents the "old" Italy, Milan represents the "new" Italy. Milan is the most modern of all Italian cities, and it still keeps most of its past history intact.
At first sight, Milan looks like a bustling and relatively stylish (with its shiny display windows and elegant shops) metropolis, with a good number of grand palaces and fine churches in the centre, but might seem like a slightly prosaic, soulless and business-orientated place. It can be quite rainy, grey and foggy, and some of the buildings, ancient or modern, have quite a severe appearance. Whilst there are a lot of parks, Milan looks as if it has very little greenery, and apart from the very well-kept historic part, some outlying areas are a bit scruffy. However, Milan, unlike most usually historical European cities which throw the sights in your face, requires quite a lot of exploring - take it as it is, and you might enjoy its fashionable glitter and business-like modernity, but might find it not very "captivating". If you spend time, though, strolling through areas such as the pretty Navigli, the chic Brera district, the lively University quarter, or some of the smaller churches and buildings, you'll find a forward thinking, diverse city filled in every corner with history, and with a plethora of hidden gems. Plus, with such an established history in theatre, music, literature, sport, art and fashion, there's really not much you can miss.
Milan, as many have noticed, doesn't fully feel like a part of Italy. Despite the similarities between typical Italian cities such as Verona or Venice with the city, it does have a different atmosphere. Milan feels more like a bustling, busy, fashionable business capital - where in several cafes, lots of people only stop to have a quick espresso at the bar counter, and where tourists at times seem more laid back than the locals. Milan, unlike the traditionally red-terracotta roofed Italian cities, is quite grey, as many buildings are constructed using limestone or dark stones. Ancient buildings mainly have a sort of Austrian/Germanic neoclassical look with some slight French influences. However, with some cycling around in old fashioned bicycles, restaurant chairs and tables outside at summer filled with locals and tourists alike, and people strolling down the pedestrian avenues, licking an ice cream or carrying some heavy shopping bags, Milan does boast some "Italian flair".
These differences between Rome and Milan are evident from several proverbs, such as an Italian saying about the differences of the two cities which roughly translates, "Rome is a voluptuous woman whose gifts are very apparent, while Milan is the shy, demure girl whose treasures are plentiful, but discovered in time."