Well, I have had a Via Venezia for six years now although it is about to get upgraded due to ill health. I have to be honest and say it was fine - it makes good, though not stunning, coffee and it is easy to use to make a couple of coffees in the morning. Switching from coffee to steam takes a little time but I dont think this problem is solved in anything at that price point. (Doing the multiple cappucino dinner party trick was one of the reasons for the upgrade).
They are very common wedding presents and there always seem to be new ones on ebay so I wouldnt have thought there was much of a saving to be had going second hand given the risk of a turkey. The only thing I have had go wrong with mine is that the handle broke away from the filter.
Although you are right about the grinder, dont forget that coffee is an important part of the equation! Good quality fresh coffee is like having a good CD player - whatever you have downstream cant make the output any better.