Welcome to CS Greg.
The Via Venezia is an excellent realiable starter machine at base price so I wouldnt be concerned about it *:)
If you want to go down the path of getting an unpressurised group handle all you need do is buy one from a Saeco dealer. You only need the group handle, as you just pull the filter out of your pressurised group handle and swap it over....its the same filter.
You dont modify anything wrt the steam circuit. If you dont want the standard steam arm entraining air *into the milk, just slip the outer sheath off it and leave the internal pipe alone. It works very well.
After that.....enjoy your machine.
I have a thing for the Iberital Challenge as the best starter grinder on the market. You buy it, you adjust it, and it runs reliably for years without any form of modification. * There are cheaper grinders, but I cant see the point of paying less then having to do mods for it to be fit for purpose. The Iberital is fit for purpose when you buy it, and is in your price bracket.
If you want better, you have to pay more.
If you want to talk to someone in Adelaide, go see Marc at The Coffee Barun...find him at left in the list of sponsors.
If you have a hankering to buy a grinder by mail order instead of face to face from Marc, by all means give me a yell off form.
very first CS site sponsor.