Changes in intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE) were investigated in Fagus sylvatica and Nothofagus spp. over the last century. We combined dendrochronological methods with dual-isotope analysis to investigate whether atmospheric changes enhanced iWUE of Fagus and Nothofagus and tree growth (basal area increment, BAI) along latitudinal gradients in Italy and Chile. Post-maturation phases of the trees presented different patterns in δ 13C, Δ 13C, δ 18O, Ci (internal CO 2 concentration), iWUE, and BAI. A continuous enhancement in isotope-derived iWUE was observed throughout the twentieth century, which was common to all sites and related to changes in Ca (ambient CO 2 concentration) and secondarily to increases in temperature. In contrast to other studies, we observed a general increasing trend of BAI, with the exception of F. sylvatica in Aspromonte. Both iWUE and BAI were uncoupled with the estimated drought index, which is in agreement with the absence of enduring decline in tree growth. In general, δ 13C and δ 18O showed a weak relationship, suggesting the major influence of photosynthetic rate on Ci and δ 13C, and the minor contribution of the regulation of stomatal conductance to iWUE. The substantial warming observed during the twentieth century did not result in a clear pattern of increased drought stress along these latitudinal transects, because of the variability in temporal trends of precipitation and in specific responses of populations.